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Food safety for high risk customer groups

April 10, 2014

Food poisoning and infection from Salmonella, Listeria, and other common harmful organisms can happen to anyone at any time. However, it can be especially important to adopt diligent food safety practices when dealing with high risk groups.

High risk groups

People who are at higher risk for developing significant food-borne illnesses are generally those who have compromised immune systems. This can include people who suffer with chronic illnesses or immune system disorders, as well as the elderly, pregnant women and young children under the age of six.

The elderly are a particularly high risk group. As we age, our digestive systems tend to become more sensitive. Older people generally produce less stomach acid than when they were younger, and the stomach lining becomes more delicate and sensitive to irritation. Subsequently, bacteria can sneak past the stomach and into the digestive tract, where it can evolve into food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning

Though most people will begin to experience the symptoms of food poisoning quite quickly after ingesting the offending substance, it can sometimes take a number of days or weeks for problems to arise, depending on the bacteria involved.

Food poisoning can be quite serious in seniors, causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea or bloody stools, severe exhaustion or headaches, and fever.

If you experience any of these issues, contact your doctor and seek treatment as soon as possible.

Avoiding food poisoning

To lower your risk of falling victim to food poisoning, ensure that all perishable foods within the household have been refrigerated within two hours of use or purchase. All frozen foods should be thoroughly thawed before cooking unless they are specifically designed to be cooked from frozen. Thaw foods in the refrigerator, rather than on the kitchen counter or in the sink.

Ready-to-eat and raw produce should always be kept separate from each other in order to avoid contamination. Furthermore, any uncooked meat should always be prepared on a non-porous chopping board, and hands should be washed thoroughly before and after handling different types of food.