Safer Food Choices for Adults 65 Years or Older

Help Prevent Food Poisoning

adults aged 65 or older at risk for food poisoning

Older adults have a higher risk of getting sick from food poisoning and having a more serious illness.

To prevent food poisoning, some foods are safer choices than others. That’s because some foods—such as undercooked meat and eggs, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized milk — are more often associated with foodborne illnesses. Use the table below as a guide to safer food choices.

Riskier vs. safer foods for adults aged 65 and older
Foods Riskier Choice Safer Choice
Poultry and Meat
Meat and poultry
  • Raw or undercooked poultry or meat
    • Poultry includes chicken and turkey
    • Meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and veal
  • Unheated deli meat, cold cuts, hot dogs, and fermented or dry sausages
  • Refrigerated pâté or meat spreads
  • Poultry and meat cooked to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to check.
    • All poultry, including ground chicken and turkey, cooked to 165°F
    • Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork cooked to 145°F (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
    • Ground meats, such as beef and pork, cooked to 160°F
  • Deli meat, cold cuts, hot dogs, and fermented or dry sausages heated to 165°F or until steaming hot
  • Pâté or meat spreads in sealed, airtight containers that don’t need to be kept refrigerated before opening
Deli salads
potato salad
Premade deli salads, such as:
  • coleslaw
  • potato salad
  • tuna salad
  • chicken salad
  • egg salad
  • Homemade deli salads
Vegetables and Fruits
Fruit and vegetables
  • Any raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa and bean
  • Unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables, including lettuce and other leafy greens
  • Cut melon left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if it’s exposed to temperatures hotter than 90°F, such as a picnic or hot car)
  • Cooked sprouts
  • Washed vegetables and fruits (washed and then cooked are safest)
  • Freshly cut melon or cut melon kept refrigerated for 7 or fewer days
Unpasteurized juice or cider
  • Pasteurized juice or cider
  • Unpasteurized juice or cider brought to a rolling boil at least 1 minute before drinking
Unpasteurized (raw) milk, and dairy products made from unpasteurized milk Pasteurized milk, and dairy products made from pasteurized milk
  • Soft cheese made from unpasteurized (raw) milk— for example, queso fresco, brie, camembert, and blue-veined cheese
  • Unheated cheese sliced at a deli
  • Hard cheese, such as cheddar and swiss
  • Cottage cheese, cream cheese, string cheese, and feta
  • Pasteurized soft cheeses heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot
  • Deli-sliced cheeses heated to 165°F or until steaming hot
Raw or undercooked (runny) eggs, and foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs, such as
  • Caesar salad dressing
  • Raw cookie dough
  • Eggnog
  • Eggs cooked until the yolks and whites are firm
  • Egg dishes (frittata, quiche, casserole) cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F if they contain meat or poultry
  • Egg dishes cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F if they do not contain meat or poultry
  • Pasteurized eggs in foods that will not be cooked to a safe temperature, such as mousse and salad dressing
  • Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, including sashimi, sushi, and ceviche
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood (except in a cooked dish). Refrigerated smoked seafood is usually labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky”
  • Fish cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
  • Shellfish cooked until shells open during cooking or until flesh is pearly or white, and opaque
  • Smoked fish in sealed, airtight packages or containers that don’t need to be kept refrigerated before opening
  • Smoked fish cooked in a casserole or other cooked dishes
  • Canned fish and seafood
Raw dough or raw batter made with raw (uncooked) flour
  • Food made with flour that is cooked following the package directions or recipe
  • Dough and batter made with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs
  • Dough and batter that is labeled “edible” or “safe to eat raw”

Always follow the four steps to food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to protect yourself from food poisoning.

Learn about current foodborne outbreaks and the foods linked to them.