If You're Over 65, Never Eat This Kind of Cheese, Says Mayo Clinic
There's no denying it: however young you may look or feel at heart, aging is not without its own set of challenges. And while some of them make their presence known—those pesky new aches and pains, for instance—others can be far more subtle, and unfortunately far more dangerous. If you're over the age of 65, this may mean adopting important changes in your wellness plan, including your diet. In particular, experts say that there's one kind of cheese that may put you at serious risk of food-borne illness as a senior, despite being perfectly safe for those under 65. Read on to find out which type of cheese to avoid, and the one way you can still safely enjoy it!
Older adults, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as those over 65, have a higher risk of food poisoning. The health authority explains that this is because "as people age, their immune systems and organs don't recognize and get rid of harmful germs as well as they once did." This leaves seniors vulnerable to serious foodborne illnesses, including infections caused by Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. To make matters worse, the CDC says that roughly half of seniors with confirmed foodborne illnesses are hospitalized. For this reason, those over 65 should practice enhanced food safety precautions to offset their heightened risk.
Once you turn 65, some of your go-to snacks may suddenly come with a side of symptoms. In particular, the Mayo Clinic warns that certain types of mold-ripened cheeses, such as brie and camembert, can disproportionately cause food poisoning in seniors and other vulnerable groups. While the molds used in these cheeses may be safe for most healthy adults to consume, the Mayo Clinic cautions that these types of cheese "are best avoided by people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children."
The U.K.'s National Health Services (NHS) further explains that these types of cheese can pose a danger because they are "less acidic than hard cheeses and contain more moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in." Listeria, Salmonella, and Brucella are just a few of the most common bacterial contaminants found in soft cheeses.
Though, in general, you should proceed with caution where mold-ripened cheeses are involved, the NHS shares that there's one safe way to continue enjoying your favorite soft cheeses past 65. "Thorough cooking should kill any bacteria in cheese, so it should be safe to eat cooked mold-ripened soft cheese, such as brie, camembert and chevre, and cooked soft blue cheese, such as roquefort or gorgonzola, or dishes that contain them," the organization explains.
That said, undercooking the cheese can leave you vulnerable to infection, and may give you a false sense of safety. "It's important to make sure the cheese is thoroughly cooked until it's steaming hot all the way through," their experts add.
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Unpasteurized cheeses—meaning those which have not been heat-treated to destroy harmful pathogens—can also wreak havoc on your health if you're over the age of 65. Though most varieties of cheese on grocery store shelves are typically pasteurized, cheese aged for over 60 days may not have undergone this safety precaution, in accordance with U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rules. For this reason, you should always check the label to ensure that your milk products have been pasteurized, or inquire with restaurant staff if you're unsure of a meal's ingredients while eating out.