Nursing homes have a duty to prevent foodborne illness

Because they often cannot cook for themselves, nursing home residents depend on staff members to provide them with nutritious meals. Unfortunately, though, foodborne illnesses are common in nursing homes. Even worse, for a variety of reasons, those who live in long-term care facilities are increasingly susceptible to food poisoning. 

Nurses, cooks, janitorial staff and others at nursing homes have a duty to keep residents safe. This includes offering wholesome food that satisfies dietary requirements. To ensure residents do not acquire a foodborne illness, nursing home staff should take the following steps. 

Prioritize cleanliness 

Cleanliness is essential in preventing food poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises food preparers always to wash their hands before preparing food and throughout the cooking process. Nursing home cooks should also maintain a germ-free workspace by regularly disinfecting kitchen surfaces, cutting boards, utensils and other items. 

Avoid cross-contamination 

Many nursing homes meet the dietary needs of their residents by combining ready-to-eat foods with eggs, meat or poultry. If cooks do not keep ready-to-eat foods separate from raw ones, though, they risk cross-contamination. That is, bacteria from uncooked meats or dairy products may spread onto other types of food. 

Use a food thermometer  

Because some undercooked foods may harbor dangerous germs, correctly preparing meals is essential for preventing foodborne illnesses. Cooks in long-term care facilities should not leave this to chance. Instead, they should use a food thermometer to ensure the finished meal is a safe temperature. 

Keep food items cool 

Finally, kitchen staff at nursing homes must store items at an appropriate temperature. Setting the refrigerator’s thermostat below 40 degrees is essential. Also, cooks should safely thaw frozen foods. 

Nursing home kitchens undergo regular inspections to ensure food safety. Nonetheless, if your loved one acquires a foodborne illness, you should probably investigate whether the kitchen was the source of the illness. If it was, someone at the facility may have breached the duty to prevent food poisoning. 


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