Are older adults prepared to ensure food safety during extended power outages and other emergencies?: Findings from a national survey
Kosa, K., Cates, S., Karns, S., Godwin, S. L., & Coppings, R. J. (2012). Are older adults prepared to ensure food safety during extended power outages and other emergencies?: Findings from a national survey. Educational Gerontology, 38(11), 763-775. DOI: 10.1080/03601277.2011.645436
Natural disasters and other emergencies can cause an increased risk of foodborne illness. We conducted a nationally representative survey to understand consumers’ knowledge and use of recommended practices during/after extended power outages and other emergencies. Because older adults are at an increased risk for foodborne illness, this paper presents findings from a sample of older adults (n = 290). Only 17% of respondents reported they are fully prepared to keep food safe during an extended power outage. Respondents identified lack of cogitation (42%), storage space (19%), and concern (27%) as barriers to not being fully prepared. Of those who had experienced a recent power outage, less than 40% followed the recommended practices of discarding frozen foods that had thawed and discarding refrigerated, perishable foods. Additionally, 21% to 36% of respondents reported they tasted food to determine whether it was safe to eat. Awareness and likelihood of following recommended practices were higher among women than men. Many older adults are not following recommended practices to ensure food safety during/after extended power outages and other emergencies. Educational materials need to address barriers and be tailored to specific locations and subpopulations of older adults. Educators and public health officials can use the survey findings to address gaps in older adults’ knowledge and practices and to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness among older adults.