Pushing 65 Mind Your Menu

Pushing65? Mind Your Menu
April 17, 2001
Washington Post
Page HE13

In a related story, Lindner says that as you enter your sixties, seventies andeighties and your immune system declines, it’s wise to consider a little morecarefully whether the food you’re eating could put you at risk for an infectionfrom food-borne bacteria.

Thefrail elderly in nursing homes or with vulnerable immune systems because of,say, chemotherapy, obviously have to be careful about what they eat.

But,says Lindner, elderly people in good health should make conscious, informeddecisions about food safety, too. Taking a calculated risk — or opting for zerorisk, as the government advises — is better than ignoring risk altogether. Thefollowing foods deserve some thoughtful consideration by those in their mid- tolate sixties and older (and are best left uneaten by pregnant women, very youngchildren and anyone of any age whose immune system is compromised due toillness).

Delimeats and other ready-to-eat meat and poultry products; smoked fish, such assmoked salmon; refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads; soft cheese such as feta,brie, Camembert, blue-veined and Mexican-style varieties.  All of thesefoods can contain a type of bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes.

Cookingkills the harmful microorganisms, but none of these foods is heated at homeafter possible contamination at the processing plant.

Caesarsalad dressing, hollandaise sauce, eggnog, Key lime pie and any other dish madewith unpasteurized raw eggs Raw unpasteurized eggs (as opposed to the eggs inbottled Caesar salad dressing, for example) may contain salmonella bacteria.

Rawmollusks, including oysters, clams and mussels These foods sometimes containvibrio vulnificus or vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Alfalfasprouts  These curly vegetable “threads” that often appear atopsalads or tucked into sandwiches can contain the same bacteria that makeundercooked burgers a risk for everyone: E. coli O157:H7. Harmful, sometimesfatal outbreaks of food-borne illness attributed to alfalfa sprouts haveoccurred not just in the United States but also in Japan, Finland, Norway,Australia and Canada.  Bean, radish and mung sprouts may pose a risk aswell, according to the FDA.

Thehigh level of moisture that sprouts need to grow provides the perfectenvironment for bacteria to thrive, and since the sprouts are typically eatenraw, pathogens that can cause kidney failure don’t get killed. Washing, eventhoroughly, doesn’t rid them of all the bacteria, either.

Fresh,unpasteurized juice — from a roadside stand or juice bar, for example. About 2percent of the juice in this country is sold unpasteurized, meaning that it hasnot been treated to kill harmful bacteria, including E. coli. It causes anestimated 50,000 annual cases of food-borne illness, ranging from diarrhea andstomach cramps to much, much worse.