food poisoning

Food Safety for Adults Ages 60 and Over

Most people who get food poisoning can have a full recovery. But for older adults, serious longer-term problems can be more common. .


What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness or food-related illness) is caused by eating food that has been contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites.  Food can become contaminated by these microorganisms at any time before you eat it, including at home during:

  • handling
  • storing
  • cooking

There are many signs of food poisoning, but most types cause one or more of the following:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain and cramps
  • fever and chills

Symptoms can start within hours after eating the contaminated food, or sometimes not until days or even weeks later. Usually, people recover quickly and completely.

However, food poisoning sometimes causes serious complications, including death. This is the case for people who are more at risk for both food poisoning and related health complications, like older adults.


Food poisoning and adults ages 60 and over

Most people who get food poisoning can have a full recovery. But for older adults, serious longer-term problems can be more common. As people get older, it becomes harder for their immune system to protect them from food poisoning. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can make it even more difficult to fight off infections.

It is very important for older adults, and people who prepare food for older adults, to follow safe food handling and cooking practices.

This guide offers helpful advice on how to reduce the risk of food poisoning to you or the person you care for.

Safe food alternatives for adults ages 60 and over

Some types of food can be a higher risk for older adults, because of how they are produced and stored. To lower your chances of getting food poisoning, you should avoid those foods. The following chart can help you make safer food choices.


Safe food alternatives for adults ages 60 and over
Type of food Food to avoid Safer alternatives
Hot dogs Hot dogs straight from the package, without further heating. Hot dogs that are well cooked to a safe internal temperature. The middle of the hot dog should be steaming hot or 74 °C (165 °F).


Tip: Avoid spreading juice from hot dog packages, or onto other food, cutting boards, utensils, dishes and counters. Wash your hands after touching hot dogs.

Deli meats Non-dried deli meats, such as bologna, roast beef and turkey breast. Dried and salted deli meats, such as salami and pepperoni.


Non-dried deli meats that are heated until steaming hot.

Eggs and egg products Raw or lightly cooked eggs, or egg products that contain raw eggs, including some salad dressings, cookie dough, cake batter, sauces, and drinks (like homemade eggnog). Egg dishes that are well cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74 oC (165 oF). Cook eggs until the yolk is firm.


Homemade eggnog heated to 71°C (160°F).

Tip: Use pasteurized egg products when making uncooked food that calls for raw eggs.

Meat and poultry Raw or undercooked meat or poultry, such as steak tartar. Meat and poultry that are cooked to their safe internal temperature. (Refer to the Internal Cooking Temperatures Chart.)
Seafood Raw seafood, such as sushi. Seafood cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74 °C (165 °F).
Raw oysters, clams and mussels. Oysters, clams and mussels that are cooked until the shell has opened.
Refrigerated, smoked seafood. Smoked seafood in cans, or seafood that does not need to be refrigerated until it is opened.
Dairy products
  • Raw or unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Unpasteurized and pasteurized soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert.
  • Unpasteurized semi-soft cheeses, such as Havarti.
  • All unpasteurized and pasteurized blue-veined cheeses.
  • Pasteurized dairy products and any dairy products that are cooked, in a casserole or au gratin.
  • Pasteurized cheeses such as cheese curds, cheddar and cottage cheese.
  • Pasteurized semi-soft cheese such as Havarti and pasteurized processed/spreadable cheeses such as cream cheese.
  • Pasteurized and unpasteurized hard cheeses such as Romano and Parmesan.
Sprouts Raw sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, radish and mung beans. Thoroughly cooked sprouts.
Pâtés and meat spreads Refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads. Pâtés and meat spreads sold in cans, or that do not have to be refrigerated until they are opened.
Fruit juice and cider Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider. Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider that are brought to a rolling boil and cooled.
Pasteurized fruit juice and cider.

For more information visit the Government of Canada website.