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Food Safety – Are You At Risk?

Access to safe and nutritious foods is important to promote good health. Unsafe foods may contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals that can lead to foodborne illness. Anyone can get food poisoning, but older adults are more likely to get sick or have a more serious illness when consuming contaminated foods because their bodies are not as effective at getting rid of these germs as they once were. More than half of those over 65 year’s old and lab-confirmed diagnosis of food poisoning are hospitalized.

In order for these harmful bacteria to thrive on our foods, they need four things including oxygen, the right acid-base balance, the right temperature, and water. If one of these is missing, then the bacteria cannot continue to grow. For example, dried fruits have had the water removed and will be safe from bacterial growth. The process of canning creates an airtight seal that does not allow oxygen in and therefore bacteria will not grow. Pickling vegetables creates an acid environment where bacteria cannot thrive. By altering how foods are prepared and stored, you can protect yourself or a loved one from food poisoning.

There are four easy steps you can take to reduce your risk: clean, chill, cook, and separate.

1. Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can move around your kitchen as you move around your kitchen.

2. Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Bacteria slow their growth when in temperatures below 400F and stop multiplying when below 00F. However, this does not kill bacteria. Once you pull that food out of the fridge and the temperature starts rising, the bacteria start growing again.

3. Cook: Heat foods to the right temperatures. Generally if you cook to 1650F, you will kill the bacteria.

4. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep high-risk foods like chicken, meats, and fish from touching your low-risk foods. Cut on separate cutting boards and wash hands between foods. Do not wash your chicken and meats, cooking alone will kill the bacteria.

Food Poisoning symptoms may be anywhere from mild to serious. Some symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. It is important to report to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. By reporting illness even if you don’t know what made you sick, public health officials can identify foodborne illness outbreaks and keep others from getting sick.

We know the healthy choice is not always the easiest choice, but small changes can make a big difference. Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services Dietitian, Carey Skelton RDN is available for nutrition education through SNAP-ed programs. The SNAP-ed programs are FREE for those who receive or qualify for SNAP benefits. Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services Senior Nutrition Program also provides nutritious meals through Home Delivered Meals and the Dining Out Program throughout the county. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Please remember to contribute toward your OFAS nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable without the support of participant and community contributions. SNAP benefits can be used toward your contribution. Call NY Connects at 716-453-4582 for more details and information about any of these Nutrition and Wellness programs provided by Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services.

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