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How older people store and use food could cause listeriosis

People with weakened immunity are known to be at increased risk of foodborne disease such as listeriosis 
Liseriosis

People with weakened immunity, including older adults, are known to be at increased risk of foodborne disease, in particular, listeriosis.

Listeriosis is associated with the highest levels of hospitalisation and mortality of all foodborne pathogens in the UK.

In the 1980s and 1990s the incidence of listeriosis was associated primarily with pregnant women. This has changed adults over the age of 60 now account for 65% of reported cases.

The bacterium responsible is Listeria monocytogenes , which is capable of surviving or even thriving in cold environments.

Research has found the way older adults store and use their food may be responsible. Although most older adults are aware of Listeria , awareness of other pathogens was greater and they did not perceive themselves to be at

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People with weakened immunity, including older adults, are known to be at increased risk of foodborne disease, in particular, listeriosis.

Listeriosis is associated with the highest levels of hospitalisation and mortality of all foodborne pathogens in the UK.

Liseriosis
Checking use-by dates on ready-to-eat food is key to preventing listeriosis. Photo: Science Photo Library

In the 1980s and 1990s the incidence of listeriosis was associated primarily with pregnant women. This has changed – adults over the age of 60 now account for 65% of reported cases.

The bacterium responsible is Listeria monocytogenes, which is capable of surviving or even thriving in cold environments.

Research has found the way older adults store and use their food may be responsible. Although most older adults are aware of Listeria, awareness of other pathogens was greater and they did not perceive themselves to be at risk of listeriosis.

Use-by dates

Less than half the older adults interviewed knew that ‘use-by’ dates on food products became invalid after opening the packaging. Observation studies in older adults’ domestic kitchens showed that two-fifths of the ready-to-eat food associated with listeria were beyond their use-by date.

Vast technological developments in the food industry have changed the way that food is treated and sold but food safety in the home has not developed in line with the industry.

Some of the older people surveyed said they grew up in a time before fridges and use-by dates and still believe that the smell of food can tell you that it is safe to eat.


Evans E (2016) Older adults’ domestic kitchen practices associated with an increased risk of listeriosis. Perspectives in Public Health. 136, 4, 199-201. 

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