Avoid These Food Mistakes to Stay Healthy
Aging Matters

When buying food, I select the prepackaged ones that make easy cooking. But after reading a Prevention Magazine article on the foods to avoid, I question my time-saving attempt. Am I choosing provisions that contribute to illness instead of better health?

I rely on the nose to spot spoiled food, and the eyes to home-in on mold, but I wonder if relying on the senses are enough? It's easy to check leftovers, right? Just take the lid off a container filled with yesterday's supper and it will either make you heave or salivate. But Prevention magazine's consumer specialist says, "Don't assume that everything that looks or smells good is perfectly safe," some organisms that cause foodborne illness are not seen, smelled, or tasted.

The Centers for Disease Control confirms that's the cause of 1 in 6 individuals to get sick every year. Here's a list of food items highlighted by the FDA, and things to do to protect yourself.

  • Leafy greens account for about 24 percent of all food outbreaks (Center for Science in the Public Interest.) Listeria infected 19 people, resulting in hospital stays and one death (CDC and the FDA reported in 2016.) Stay safe by washing the food thoroughly, and avoid bagged and prewashed salads because the rinsing systems harbor bacteria. Cooked spinach is safer than raw.
  • Salmonella in eggs will infect the ovaries before the shells form. Stay safe by scrambling or boiling the egg. Don't order egg dishes in restaurants since about half of the infected outbreaks occur in food establishments.
  • Scombrotoxin grows when natural chemicals in tuna and other fish build up as the fish spoils. And cooking does not destroy the toxin. If you buy fish at the market, keep it cold and put it in the refrigerator immediately upon arriving home.
  • Yes, even potatoes can make you sick if they contain C. botulinum (which causes botulism) and E. coli but salmonella is the biggest threat. Stay safe by rinsing carefully before washing them, and don't wrap them in aluminum foil when baking. The foil inhibits the heat from killing C. botulinum spores. It's not just the mayonnaise in potato salad that makes us sick; potatoes can spoil as quickly, and the Mayo gives the needed moisture for bacteria to grow. Keep the mixture cold and never leave unrefrigerated over 2 hours (1 hour if the temp is above 90°F). Always make it at home and avoid the deli kind.
  • Tomatoes can harbor salmonella when it enters the plant through the roots or cracks in the skin. Stay safe by washing under running water for about 20 seconds before eating, cutting, or cooking. And keep raw tomatoes separate from other foods in your fridge or on your counter since salmonella can grow and spread to other foods in its vicinity.

Prevention offers more tips on the foods to avoid, read them here.

Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at Seniorcare.com. A former family caregiver, She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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