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Proper Sanitation Crucial to Healthy Residents

Posted by Dude Solutions Canada, Inc. | Wednesday, June 17, 2015

When it comes to protecting the safety of residents at an assisted living facility, there are a number of factors that nearly every facility manager immediately takes into account. Fall prevention is usually somewhere toward the top of the list, as well as maintaining essential infrastructure such as HVAC to keep the building running smoothly and safely. 

Proper Sanitation Crucial to Healthy Residents One equally important safety issue is resting just under your nose - food storage and preparation. Meals are such an integral part of daily life that it can be easy to take notice of them throughout the course of your day. But like any other operational issue, failure to follow a set of important guidelines can leave you with a huge problem and lots of sick residents.

Especially important for seniors

Taking proper precautions when storing and making food is important for anybody who wants to stay healthy, but it's of particular importance for seniors. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, adults over 65 are especially susceptible to foodborne illnesses. This is due to a variety of factors, including their immune systems slowing down and their kidneys, which flush the body of toxins, functioning less efficiently. 

As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, the majority of foodborne illnesses in 2013 were due to salmonella, accounting for 38 percent of infections. This bacteria is commonly found in uncooked foods such as meat, poultry and eggs.

Taking steps to safeguard 

The silver lining when it comes to foodborne illness is that it's incredibly preventable and controllable. In many instances, these infections can be severely reduced or even eradicated by adopting policies that enforce strict cleanliness and sanitation practices. 

As a report from Iowa State University noted, it's helpful if a member of the staff responsible for managing the meal preparation and service is certified in food safety. In fact, in may states, this may be a requirement. The Association of Nutrition and Food Service Professionals stated that one contributing factor leading to the increase of foodborne illness in seniors is that facilities at senior living communities aren't often inspected frequently enough to catch any problems before they become serious. 

Check your equipment

Just like your HVAC system is critical for your air quality, your refrigeration is the cornerstone on which your food safety rests. Broken refrigerator units can spoil tremendous amounts of food very quickly. Make sure that you regularly inspect any refrigerators to ensure they are working properly, and make any necessary repairs immediately. 

Clean, clean, clean

Food safety starts first and foremost with cleanliness. In fact, the FDA's guidelines on how to reduce the instances of foodborne illness lists adequate cleaning as the first guideline. This goes further than just washing your hands - all equipment, including serving platters, knives and other utensils, and countertops should be regularly sterilized. As an added precaution, avoid cross-contamination - if you use one knife to slice raw chicken, use a different blade and cutting board to chop your veggies so the potentially harmful bacteria from the chicken can't spread.

Temperature control

Cooking food to the proper temperature is critical if you don't want your residents to get sick. Any time you prepare meat, use an internal thermometer to ensure the food is prepared correctly. FoodSafety.gov noted that chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165.

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, chilling leftovers properly is required if you don't want bacteria to develop. As a rule, no food should be allowed to sit in the open for longer than two hours - or one hour if the weather is warm - or else bacteria can start to grow rapidly. Once meals have been served, leftovers should be wrapped and sealed with saran wrap and stored at a temperature no higher than 40 degrees.