People at Risk – Older Adults
CDC estimates Listeria is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States. An estimated 1,600 people get sick from Listeria each year, and about 260 die. Older adults are at particular risk – more than half of all Listeria infections occur in people 65 and older.
As people age, their immune system and organs aren’t as able to recognize and rid the body of harmful germs, including ones that cause food poisoning. Many older adults also live with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, and are taking medicine that can weaken the immune system. Also, stomach acid decreases as people get older, and stomach acid plays an important role in killing germs and reducing the risk of illness.
Adults who are 65 years and older are 4 times more likely than other people in the United States to get Listeria infections.
- Wash your hands the right way – for 20 seconds with soap and running water.
- Use a thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is 40°F or lower and your freezer is 0°F or lower.
- Keep raw meat away from fresh produce and other ready-to-eat food, to avoid contamination.
- Thaw or marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter or in the kitchen sink.
- Wash fruits and vegetables (even if you plan to peel them), but do not wash meat, poultry or eggs!
- Use separate cutting boards for raw produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
- Use a food thermometer to be sure food is cooked to its proper temperature.
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours in shallow covered containers and use within 3-4 days.
- Know when to throw food out.