Two-day shelf life once ready-to-eat products are opened

My parents, who are in their mid-70s, spent a week with us in Brisbane (they’re much better looking than I, left, exactly as shown). one point, my mother told me she had foodborne illness and it took her over a year to recover.

She did not culture a stool sample, so this could all be speculation.

I did tell her that, once ya hit 55, the immune system goes into decline, and she needs to be careful about what she eats.

And here’s some science to back that up.

Increased listeriosis incidence among older adults (≥60 years) has been reported internationally, with many cases reported to be sporadic and associated with ready-to-eat (RTE) food products with extended refrigerated shelf life. Given that the home kitchen is recognized as a significant location where foodborne illnesses are acquired, it is important that consumers implement safe food practices to minimize risks. This is crucial for vulnerable consumers, such as older adults.

Consumer food safety recommendations in the United Kingdom to reduce the risk of listeriosis at home include (i) following “use-by” dates on unopened prepacked RTE food products, (ii) consuming RTE food products within 2 days of opening, and (iii) ensuring the safe operating temperatures of domestic refrigerators (≤5°C).

listeria.pubix.cold.cutsThis study utilized observation, self-reporting, and microbiological analysis to determine actual food storage practices to identify behavioral risk factors. A domestic kitchen survey was conducted in older adult (≥60 years) consumers’ domestic kitchens (n = 100) in South Wales, United Kingdom. Forty-one percent of foods in home refrigerators were beyond the use-by date, of which 11% were unopened RTE food products commonly associated with listeriosis. Sixty-six percent of opened RTE foods had been or were intended to be stored beyond the recommended 2 days after opening. Older adults failed to ensure safe refrigeration temperatures, with 50% of central storage and 85% of door storage areas operating at temperatures >5°C. Older refrigerators operated at significantly (P < 0.05) higher temperatures.

Given that Listeria monocytogenes was isolated in 2% of kitchens, these findings suggest that storage malpractices may have a greater effect on the potential risk of listeriosis than its presence alone. The study has determined that many older adults fail to adhere to recommendations and subject RTE foods associated with L. monocytogenes to prolonged storage at unsafe temperatures which may render food unsafe for consumption.

 Analysis of older adults’ domestic kitchen storage practices in the United Kingdom: identification of risk factors associated with listeriosis


Journal of Food Protection®, Number 4, April 2015, pp. 636-858, pp. 738-745(8)

Evans, Ellen W.; Redmond, Elizabeth C.