Food Safety Risks for the Elderly

Roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illness every year.  While food safety is a concern for everyone, it’s especially important to make sure the older adults in your life are protected.  What may be a simple case of food poisoning for a healthy 30 year old can be deadly for an elderly person.

Despite what your grandma did in the kitchen, to keep her safe, you need to take extra precaution. For example, you never want to leave leftovers on the counter to cool to room temperature. That’s a myth. Instead, refrigerate leftovers promptly in airtight, shallow containers for quick cooling to prevent bacterial growth. Here are more tips to keep your loved ones safe.

At home:

  • Remember the basic four to keep your entire family’s food safe:
    • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
    • Separate: Don’t cross contaminate
    • Cook: Cook food to the right temperature
    • Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly

Get more details on these steps by visiting


  • Pay close attention to the use and sell by dates. Select the freshest foods available.
  • Make sure your milk, eggs and any fresh fruit or vegetable juices are pasteurized.  This is the norm but some health food stores and farmer’s markets sell unpasteurized products.
  • Keep raw fruits and vegetables away from meat packages that may leak juices.  You can use a plastic bag to keep them separate.

Dining out:

  • Pay attention to the sanitation score.  Did the kitchen staff get dinged for not washing hands, keeping foods at improper temperatures or mixing raw and ready to eat foods (cross-contamination)? You might want to eat somewhere else as these are signs of poor staff training and adherence.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly.  Food should not be left out for more than 2 hours.
  • Skip the rare or uncooked meat and fish.  This is a big no-no for the elderly who may not be able to fight off bad bacteria.

In addition, if you have a loved one in adult day care or a long term care facility, don’t be afraid to ask about their food safety training certifications and practices.

For more on food safety inside and out of the kitchen, visit


Blog Contributor

Blog Contributor

Marisa Moore, MBA.RD.LD. is a registered and licensed dietitian in Atlanta, GA.

Marisa works with corporations, groups and individuals to improve health outcomes in wellness, weight management, heart health and disease prevention. She also works with the food industry to develop healthy recipes, products and campaigns. 

She is a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and adjunct faculty at Georgia State University. Moore holds a BS in nutrition and dietetics from Georgia State University where she also earned a master’s degree in business administration.

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