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By: Mary Rooks and Angela Boadu   Date: 9/22/10

The International Food Information Council Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture held a joint Twitter Chat last week regarding food safety in at-risk populations.

According to the USDA, some people because of age or medical conditions are susceptible to food borne pathogens and may  have more serious consequences.

Who is at risk?
• Pregnant women
• Older adults
• Infants and young children
• People with compromised immune system (transplant recipients, those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions)

These high risk groups should avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, raw meat & poultry, raw fish/shellfish, raw sprouts, unpasteurized milk and juices, and hot dogs and deli/luncheon meats that have not been reheated, raw/uncooked eggs, unwashed vegetables, unpasteurized pate.

Pregnant women should be particularly cautious of listeriosis. Symptoms of listeriosis (muscle cramps, fever, diarrhea, chills and upset stomach) may take 3 weeks to appear and can cause miscarriages in pregnant women. Older adults also are at-risk, and good food safety practices are equally important whether they are living in an assisted-living facility or on their own.

How to avoid listeriosis:
• Cook hot dogs/deli meats until steaming
• Do not eat refrigerated pates or seafood/chicken salads
• Do not eat unpasteurized/soft cheeses

At risk populations CAN eat hard cheeses, soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk and cream cheese/processed cheese. Be sure to check labels! Soft cheeses are ok as long as they are baked or heated to 160° F throughout. Use a food thermometer to be sure!

Other precautions at-risk populations and/or caregivers can take to avoid food borne pathogens include:
• Clean: Wash hands, utensils and surfaces before prepare/eating food and wash fruits and vegetables
• Separate: Avoid cross-contamination of raw meats and juices with foods that will not be cooked (packed foods or raw vegetables)
• Cook: Make sure foods reach a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer! Below is a short list, but visit for a more comprehensive list of cooking foods to the correct internal temperature.
      Beef/veal/lamb/steaks/roasts: 145°F
      Fish: 145°F
      All pork: 160°F 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allow the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming
      Ground meats: 160°F
      Egg dishes: 160°F
      Poultry (ground & whole): 165°F
• Chill: Refrigerate foods immediately.
      Do not leave at room temperature for more than 2 hours OR for 1 hour in 90°F+ heat. This is important for everyone,                 especially at-risk populations.
      Visit the FoodInsight video for more tips on food safety
      Bacteria can double in as little as 20 minutes, especially between temperatures 40°-140°F.
      Make sure refrigerator is 40°F or below and freezer is 0°F or below.
      Foods can be put in the refrigerator hot, but divide into shallow containers, and refrigerate it within 2 hrs
      Most foods are safe for 3-4 days, but you can reference this chart for specific items

When eating out, at risk populations can take precautions to help to avoid food borne illnesses.
• Order foods fully cooked/well done
• Avoid buffets where foods may be held at room temperature too long
• Make sure salad dressings do not include raw eggs
• Take doggy bags to the fridge immediately
• Avoid unclean facilities!

For general food safety information, check out our Consumer's Guide to Food Safety Risks. Find information on at-risk consumers at You can also visit with any questions that we didn't answer during the chat.


1 comment(s) so far...

Re: Recapping our Food Safety Twitter Chat with USDA

Very good information, especially the information on soft cheeses, which I had never heard before. Thank you.

By Francine Gemmill on   Friday, October 01, 2010

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