50+ health * Healthy living

Food poisoning in the over-60s on the rise

Zone default image Older generation ignoring use-by dates on foods

People over the age of 60 are more likely to eat food past it's use-by date, a new survey has found. In doing so they risk food poisoning by Listeria, a type of bacteria which can be life-threatening for this age group.

The number of cases of food poisoning due to Listeria increased sharply in 2007 by 20 percent, and have more than doubled since the year 2000. The increase has occurred predominantly in the over-60s age group.

Research carried out by the UK Food Standards Agency found that less than half (42%) of the over-60s age group regard use-by dates as an important indicator of whether food is fresh or not compared with over 50 percent of people in younger age groups.

The results also revealed that 40 percent of older people continued to eat dairy products up to three days past their use-by date. And less than half of people surveyed (39%) checked the fridge temperature every 6 months.

Dairy products and chilled ready-to-eat foods such as pate, cooked sliced meats and soft cheeses can contain Listeria. Poor food storage conditions can allow the food poisoning bug to grow unchecked.

Dr. Andrew Wedge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, said:

"The rise in listeria food poisoning among older people is worrying. Listeria can make people very ill and 95% of cases end up needing treatment in hospital."

To prevent food poisoning due to Listeria, Dr. Wadge advises:

  • Check the use-by dates. And stick to them. They indicate how long food is safe for.
  • Follow the storage instructions on the label
  • Make sure sure fridge is cold enough - between 0 - 5 degrees C

He added:

"Cases of food poisoning double in frequency during the summer months but it is very easy to avoid becoming one of those who fall ill by sticking to these simple steps."

Pregnant women, anyone with long-term medical conditions and people over the age of 60 are at higher risk of Listeria infection.

This article was published on Mon 15 June 2009

Image © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

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