Taking Food to an Aged Care Facility

October 12, 2018

How to bring food to an Aged Care Facility safely.

Bringing a meal to a family member or friend in an Aged Care Facility shows you care, and brightens up the day of your loved one.
Before you prepare your meal there are a few important things you need to consider. As people age their immune systems get older and they become weaker, this means elderly people are more vulnerable to harmful food borne illnesses. If an older person gets food poisoning the consequences may be far more serious than for a younger healthier person.
To make sure the food you take to your loved ones is safe you need to consider some important food safety practices when buying preparing, transporting, reheating and serving the food.
Also, you need to speak with the staff at the nursing home to make sure the food you prepare can be reheated at the centre, some aged care facilities may not allow food brought from home. Inform the staff what food you are bringing, and let them know if you are leaving food in the persons fridge.
Things to remember when bringing food into an aged care facility.
Older people are considered vulnerable they have a special Food Safety Policy developed for their services that have very tight regulations, this is o reduce the risks associated with food poisoning.
When you are planning to take a meal to your loved one, you need to be aware of some foods that are very high risk for elderly people as they may contain harmful food poisoning bacteria, these foods include
• Cold Meats
• Cold cooked chicken
• Preprepared salads and fruit salads
• Chilled seafoods
• Cheese
• Ice cream
• Any products made with raw eggs, mayonnaise aioli, and some desserts like tiramisu.
Before preparing any foods, make sure you wash your hands with soapy water, and dry thoroughly, make sure all working surfaces and equipment are clean.
When cooking food make sure it is cooked through, using a food thermometer is a good idea, food should be cooked to an internal temperature of 75ᵒC.
If you are chilling the food before taking it to the aged care centre, make sure you cool I as quickly as possible, then refrigerate. Often dividing the food into smaller portions allows for quicker cooling.

Transporting Food

Temperature control is vital when transporting food. Food must be kept outside of the danger zone to reduce the risks of food borne bacteria growing, the danger zone is between 5ᵒC – 60ᵒC, in short food must be cold below 5 or ho above 60.
When transporting food if it is cold, cover and carry in a cooler bag with an ice pack, the insulated bags from the supermarkets are good for this, and you can fill plastic bottles with water and freeze them to use a chiller.
If you are transporting the food hot, again use an insulated container, ensuring the food stays above 60ᵒC, this is much more of a challenge and is no recommended.

Reheating food

When the food arrives the facility, check with the staff to find the regulations regarding reheating food.
Some facilities the staff are very happy to reheat the food, while at others they are not permitted to handle any food from outside their own facility.
Once you have realised what your obligations are you can then decide how to proceed.
If the nursing staff will reheat the food, you may be able to leave the meal for the loved one to have at another time, within 48 hours. If you need to reheat the meal because of the facility policy then find the equipment for reheating and reheat to at least 75ᵒC, this ensures mostly food borne bacteria have been destroyed. Once reheated the food should be consumed within 35-40 mins. If there is any food left over, often elderly people have smaller appetites, the food must be disposed of.
If for some chance you had reheated the food, and your loved one was not around to eat I at that time, you cannot reheat the food again, I must be disposed of.

Here are some key points

• Always wash hands before and during food preparation
• Once food has been cooked, chill it quickly in small packs before taking it to the aged care facility.
• Transport cold food in an insulated bag with a chiller pack.
• Make sure food is reheated to at least 75ᵒC.
• Food not reheated and stored in the fridge at the aged care facility must be labelled with a use by date, and the family members name.

Using all of the above steps means that you loved ones can enjoy home cooked food that is prepared in a loving way and is safe to eat.
Bon Apetit

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