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Dangerous Foods for Senior Citizens: What to Avoid

Every year, one in six people gets food poisoning, and 3,000 die from it, according to the CDC. Seniors are especially at risk. As we age, our immune systems weaken, and our bodies lose their ability to fight off disease caused by bacteria in our food. Certain foods are more likely than others to carry food-borne illnesses. To stay safe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that seniors avoid the following foods:

  • Raw shellfish, such as oysters, mussels and clams, and raw fin fish, such as that found in sushi and sashimi.
  • Luncheon meats and hot dogs, unless they’re reheated until steaming hot.
  • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover and radish. The warm, humid conditions sprouts are grown in are also ideal for bacteria, which can get trapped in the sprouts.
  • Raw or unpasteurized cheese, such as Brie, feta, Camembert, and mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco.
  • Raw or lightly cooked egg. Watch out for cookie dough, salad dressing, and certain drinks, such as eggnog.
  • Refrigerated pâté or meat spreads (canned are OK).
  • Refrigerated seafood, such as lox or smoked salmon. (Canned seafood is OK.)
  • Raw meat, such as carpaccio.
  • Unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices. In the United States, these juices will have a warning on the label.

To further reduce your risk of getting a food-borne illness, make sure to use your refrigerator properly. Always keep the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below and the freezer at 0°F (-18°C). Consume ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. Keep your refrigerator clean: spills can harbor bacteria. For more information about avoiding food-borne illness, visit this FDA webpage about food safety for seniors.