A Guide for Older Canadians

As you get older, it’s important to pay careful attention to the safety of the food you eat.

Although Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world, there are still 11 to 13 million cases of foodborne illness across the country each year. That means your ability to stay healthy depends on what food you eat, how well you store your food at home, and how carefully you prepare it before you eat.

A good, balanced diet is important to help older people stay healthy. But as we age:

The risk may be even greater if you have diabetes or kidney disease, or if you’re undergoing some forms of cancer treatment. When older people get sick, it also takes them longer to recover.

Canada has stringent regulations in place to make sure the food we buy is free of contamination and safe to eat. Any business that produces or sells food—from farmers and food processors to supermarkets, delis, butchers, and restaurants—must meet these standards.

As the consumer, once you buy a food product, you are the next link in the chain that keeps your food safe and healthy. This website will give you the information you need to guide you in choosing the right foods, and preparing and storing them safely.

What is a Foodborne Illness?

Foodborne illness is sometimes called “food poisoning.” It’s what happens when a person eats food contaminated with germs, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Depending on the type of germs and how many are in the food, symptoms of foodborne illness could include any or all of:

Symptoms can begin a few hours or a few days after eating contaminated food. Foodborne illness does not usually last long, but in older adults it can sometimes be severe, even deadly. While most people recover completely from foodborne illness, longer-term health effects like kidney failure and anaemia are more common in older people.

Foodborne illness

According to the World Health Organization, a foodborne illness is any germ or poison that enters the body through the foods we eat. Foodborne illness is a growing public health problem around the world and anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food. Some groups—including seniors, pregnant women, and people living with HIV/AIDS or undergoing cancer treatment—are more vulnerable than others.


Food Safety For Higher Risk Canadians is brought to you by the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) supported through an unrestricted educational grant from Maple Leaf Foods Inc.