A Quick Guide to Food Safety for Weak Immune Systems

Food quality assurance and quality controlMany people suffer from weak immune systems. While for some this may be a result of an organ or bone marrow transplant, others may have weak immune systems due to a chronic illness like HIV or AIDS. There are also individuals who are simply born with weak immune systems and will need to form careful habits early on in their lives in order to ensure they do not become prone to dangerous diseases.

When a person’s immune system doesn’t work at full capacity, their body has a difficult time fighting harmful bacteria and they run a higher risk of getting a food-borne illness or developing serious complications from food poisoning. As a result, people with a weakened immune system need to be very careful about what they eat, how they handle their food, and how they store that food.

If you are planning to pursue food safety courses, or you have already started your program, read on to learn how individuals with weak immune systems can avoid consuming potentially harmful bacteria.

How to Maintain Food Safety by Storing Food Properly

Experts with food quality assurance and quality control training know that canned foods are typically prepared in clean and safe conditions. They are also processed in a way that enables them to be stored safely on grocery store shelves and in pantries without refrigeration.

On the other hand, raw and unprocessed foods (or processed foods like jams and mayonnaise) that have been opened should always be stored at safe temperatures.

Such foods should be refrigerated immediately upon arriving home from the grocery store. Refrigerator temperatures should never exceed 4 degrees Celsius, and any meat that will not be consumed between two and four days after its purchase should be frozen.

How to Handle Food Safely

Safely handling food is an important part of keeping potentially harmful bacteria from causing food poisoning. Raw meats especially should always be handled with care.

People with a weakened immune system should wash their hands in warm soapy water before and after they handle food. Carefully washing any knives, cutting boards or other surfaces that may have come into contact with raw meat is especially important.

Food safety pros know that fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly rinsed under cool running water before consumption. This is mainly because unwashed produce can be contaminated with bacteria and can lead to food-borne illness.

Additionally, people with a weakened immune system should use a meat thermometer to ensure that meats are heated to 74 °C (165 °F). This temperature will eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria.

Foods People with Weakened Immune Systems Should Avoid

Unfortunately, even with safe food handling and good storing habits, there are still some foods that should not be consumed by individuals with weak immune systems.

For instance, unpasteurized milk and juices have not undergone the procedures maintained by professionals with food safety training to eliminate harmful bacteria. Therefore these should always be avoided by people with a weakened immune system, since they are much more likely to be contaminated.

Other products that should be avoided include:

  • raw meats such as sushi and raw oysters
  • raw or undercooked eggs
  • probiotic yogurt and unpasteurized yogurt
  • alfalfa and other raw sprouts
  • soft cheeses and semi-soft cheeses

In addition, people with weakened immune systems should also avoid food from potlucks, salad bars, and buffets, since they are more likely to have been left at unsafe temperatures that can promote bacteria growth.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in food safety? Visit AAPS for more information or to speak with an advisor.