During the nice warm weather of summer, many seniors are spending time outdoors with caregivers, friends and family members. Some of the best traditions shared with loved ones are cookouts and picnics. For the elderly however, there are certain foods that can pose certain health risks. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has an official list of foods that may not be safe for the elderly, including hot dogs that are ready-to-eat, lunch meats and certain cold cut meats. The reason behind the CDC’s warning? These meats are possibly contaminated with the bacteria known as listeria, the cause of listeriosis.
Listeriosis is a dangerous disease affecting primarily older adults and those with weakened immune systems. The symptoms of listeriosis are fever, chills, headache, nausea and vomiting. Listeria is an extremely dangerous bacterium because it can grow and multiply despite the cold temperatures inside of the refrigerator. Listeria can be killed by cooking or the pasteurization process, but there are certain ready-to-eat foods, such as deli meats and hot dogs, which can be contaminated with listeria after factory processing.
In the United States, around 1,600 people develop listeriosis and become violently ill every year. Even worse, approximately 260 people actually die from the disease every year. Unfortunately, the majority of these cases are elderly people. Although it is possible for anyone to become infected with listeria, healthy children and adults rarely become seriously ill from the disease.
So, how can seniors or their caregivers avoid contracting listeriosis? The CDC has issued the following precautions for those who are at high-risk for the disease:
- Avoid eating hot dogs, lunch meats and cold cuts unless they have been heated to a temperature of at least 165ºF or until they are visibly steaming hot.
- Never eat refrigerated meat spreads from a deli or freezer section of a store.
- Unless labeled “Made With Pasteurized Milk,” never eat soft cheeses like feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert or panela.
- Never eat refrigerated smoked seafood such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel, unless it is served as an ingredient in a cooked casserole or bought as a canned non-perishable product. However, canned and non-perishable tuna, salmon, and other fish products are safe for seniors to eat.
Following these simple tips can help to keep seniors feeling healthy and happy for many summers to come.