Now that we have a general idea of what causes foodborne illness, let’s talk about those who are most at risk for developing a foodborne illness. Those most at risk include the very young, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems include those who are on medications such as steroids or chemotherapy for cancer, those who have had transplants, or those who have HIV or AIDS. The food code refers to these groups of people as “highly susceptible populations”. These people are much more likely to develop a foodborne illness than the general population. Once they do develop a foodborne illness, they are much more likely to suffer severe consequences, perhaps even death. Although pregnant women are no longer singled out as highly susceptible, certain food should be avoided to prevent harm to the fetus. This food includes hot dogs and lunch meat that haven’t been reheated, soft cheese (unless made with pasteurized milk), refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads, smoked seafood, and raw (unpasteurized) milk or food containing raw milk. In addition, the following fish should be avoided because of the presence of methylmercury: swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark.
If you fall into one of these high risk categories, speak with your health care provider or research online how to prevent foodborne illness, as there are unique food handling requirements for each condition.