Eating Well -- and Safely -- During Your Golden Years
Immunity Declines With Age
Food for Thought
All of these foods can contain a type of bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. Cooking kills the harmful microorganisms, but none of these foods are eaten heated. The bacteria can cause everything from flu-like symptoms to meningitis, a life-threatening inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. These days it is becoming more common to find certain soft cheese, however, such as feta, that have been heat-treated through pasteurization.
Raw, unpasteurized eggs (as opposed to the eggs in bottled Caesar salad dressing, for example) may contain Salmonella bacteria, which can bring on nausea and diarrhea but can also lead to serious complications such as severe dehydration. Runny eggs and sunny sides-up can contain Salmonella too. Eggs that are runny are not exposed to enough heat to kill the bacteria that may be present, and sunny sides-up would need to be flipped over (and become plain old fried eggs) to make sure the bacteria are killed on both sides.
These foods sometimes contain Vibrio vulnificus or Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which could cause everything from severe dehydration to stomach cramps to fever to blood poisoning. People who may have low stomach acid are particularly vulnerable and should never eat raw mollusks, even if they come from a reputable restaurant or fish dealer.
These curly vegetable "threads" that often appear atop salads or tucked into sandwiches can contain the same bacteria that make undercooked burgers a risk for everyone: E. Coli 0157:H7. Bean, radish, and mung sprouts may pose a risk as well, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration. The high level of moisture sprouts need to grow provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, and since the sprouts are typically eaten raw, the pathogens—which can cause kidney failure—don't get killed during cooking. Washing thoroughly doesn't rid them of all the bacteria either.
Some juice may be unpasteurized, meaning that it has not been treated to kill harmful bacteria, including E. Coli. It may cause foodborne illness, ranging from diarrhea and stomach cramps to much, much worse.
Fight BAC http://www.fightbac.org/
Home Food Safety http://www.homefoodsafety.org/
United States Department of Agriculture http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome
United States Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/default.htm
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition http://www.ccfn.ca
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education http://www.canfightbac.org/en/
Food safety office. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/. Accessed January 3, 2008.
Food safety for seniors. United States Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118525.htm. Updated October 5, 2009. Accessed October 12, 2010.
To your health! Food safety for seniors. United States Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/~fsg/sr2.html. Accessed January 3, 2008.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 10/2010 -
- Update Date: 10/12/2010 -