Health & Wellness

Seniors Are at Risk for Food Poisoning

A recent survey for Health Canada suggests weakness in Canadians’ food-safety awareness


By Katrina Caruso


Survey results presented to Health Canada indicate a decline over the past eight years in our awareness of food safety principles and practises, a lack of awareness that puts Canadians—especially seniors and pregnant women—at a greater risk for food-borne illnesses and food poisoning. The last such food-safety survey took place in 2010.

This year’s survey showed an decline from 2010 to 2018 in general awareness of how to safely store, defrost, and prepare meats and seafood. Comparatively more pregnant women and parents of small children are defrosting meat at room temperature rather than in the fridge. Seniors were more likely to eat foods that had passed their best-before dates, to think that you reheat—rather than fully cook—frozen breader chicken products, and not to know the best temperature at which to keep the fridge (between 2°C/35.6°F and 4°C/39.2°F).

Every year, about 12.5% of Canadians—about four million of us—contract a food-related illness such as salmonella. Of those cases, 11,500 people are hospitalized—and roughly 240 die.

Conducted between December 2017 and January 2018, the survey gathered responses from more than 2,800 people via phone interviews and online panels, and cost over $126,000. The pollsters subsequently recommended a public awareness campaign on food safety, targeted especially to those whom the survey showed most need the information.

The federal government recently released new food safety regulations, known as the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, that will come into force on January 15, 2019. The regulations will require companies that import or export food or send it across provincial and territorial borders to document how food makes it way to the consumer. It will become easier to ensure that foods are recalled more quickly should safety concerns arise. The new regulations will replace 14 industry-specific sets of regulations.

Photo: Fotolia/Teressa.