The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Guidance for Diabetic Shoppers

Guidance for Diabetic Shoppers

Food Safety Update

November 23, 2008

Diabetes, a condition that affects the way the body uses energy in food, is a growing national problem. There are 23.6 million children and adults in the United States living with diabetes, and another 57 million people over age 20 withpre-diabetes.

Because diabetes is managed by controlling blood sugar levels so that they stay as close to normal as possible, shoppers who are aware of their condition know to avoid diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. What many diabeticsdon’t know, however, is that food safety is also a critical issue.

Although the food supply in the U.S. is one of the safest in the world, it can still be a source of infection for all persons. Seventy-six million people get sick every year, according to the CDC, from foodborne infection and illness. The very young, very old, and those with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible. Persons with diabetes fall into the latter category.

A diabetic immune system may not readily recognize harmful bacteria or pathogens in the same way as a normally functioning immune system. This delay in the body’s natural response puts diabetics at increased risk for infection. Additionally, digestion can take longer for diabetics, leaving more time for harmful bacteria to grow in the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys.

Diabetics are three times more likely to contract Salmonella and 25 times more likely to pick up Listeria. The key to avoiding these types of foodborne illnesses is in the careful handling, preparing and consumption of all foods – especially foods that are particularly prone to pathogen growth. Uncooked fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized milk, soft cheese, raw eggs, and raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood require extra vigilance.

Retailers can help diabetic shoppers check Nutrition Facts on food labels, be portion savvy, and make smart menu choices to include a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Diabetics should also be encouraged to seek advice from a registered dietician to help create a healthy and safe eating plan.

When shopping in store, diabetics should read food labels carefully to make sure food is not past its “sell by” date, and place raw packaged products into plastic bags so that their juices will not cross contaminate other foods. When buying canned goods, diabetic shoppers should select those that are free of dents, cracks or bulging lids. For eggs, pasteurized products are preferable.

All consumers, whether they have diabetes or not, should follow the USDA food safety guidelines to clean, separate, cook and chill. For a copy of the USDA's booklet onFood Safety for Diabetic Shoppers, visit this site: