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People at Risk: Older Adults

Adults age 65 and older are at a higher risk for hospitalization and death from foodborne illness. This increased risk of foodborne illness is because organs and body systems go through changes as people age:

  • The gastrointestinal tract holds onto food for a longer period of time, allowing bacteria to grow.
  • The liver and kidneys may not properly rid the body of foreign bacteria and toxins.
  • The stomach may not produce enough acid. The acidity helps to reduce the number of bacteria in our intestinal tract.
  • Underlying chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, may also increase a person’s risk of foodborne illness.

Choose Safer Food

Learn about safer food choices for people with a higher risk for foodborne illness, including older adults.

If you are 65 or older, or prepare food for someone who is, always follow the four steps:

Clean: Wash hands, utensils and surfaces often. Germs can spread and survive in many places.

Separate: Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods, so keep them separate.

Cook: Food is safely cooked only when the internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make you sick.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest between 40°F and 140°F.

Additional Resources

Food Safety for Older Adults (FDA)

Listeria: Older Adults (CDC)

Date Last Reviewed