Safety tips for loss of taste or smell senses

Taste and smell help make food and certain scents very enjoyable. But they work more as safety mechanisms than you might think. Here are tips if you have decreased sense of taste or smell.

Safety tips for loss of taste or smell senses

Dangers of not being able to taste or smell food

  • Taste and smell are the two senses that encourage us to eat. When they're lost — to any degree — some people become much less interested in food and may forget or skip meals. Others use too much salt.
  • Losing interest in food is worrying when someone already has a poor appetite, perhaps because of illness, as that puts them at risk of nutritional deficiency. Equally dangerous is the tendency to opt for more strongly flavoured, fried, high-fat, high-salt processed foods that pile on the calories and weight.
  • Our senses of taste and smell are also an early warning system. People who cannot smell may fail to detect a gas leak or a fire. They may not realize that a piece of fish smells rank — leaving them vulnerable to food poisoning.
  • Always check and abide by cooking times and expiration dates. Throw away food that is past the recommended storage time, or has been left unrefrigerated for prolonged periods.

Food safety tips

  • Don't "cook by taste" — always follow recommended cooking times and temperatures.
  • Invest in a meat thermometer to test temperature on the inside of large roasts or, especially, poultry.
  • Make sure that frozen meals and any foods being re-heated are properly cooked through and hot.
  • Maintain scrupulous kitchen hygiene; always wash your hands before preparing food.
  • Keep raw meat and fish covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and well away from vegetables or cooked foods.
  • Refrigerate any prepared items that you won't eat immediately.
  • Set your fridge and freezer to the recommended temperatures, and buy a fridge thermometer to ensure that all perishable food is stored at 5°C (41°F) or below.
  • Defrost frozen food thoroughly before cooking it.

Other safety tips

  • In the home, fire and gas are other potential hazards. Most people wake up if a fire breaks out at night, as smell is the only sense that doesn't sleep, so those who can't smell are especially vulnerable.
  • Put a good smoke alarm on every floor and keep a fire blanket next to the stove.
  • What about gas? Natural gas is odourless, but because gas leaks are so dangerous, risking both poisoning and explosions, gas companies deliberately add a strong, unpleasant smell so that it can be detected early. If you can't smell and you have the option, choose an electric oven and stovetop rather than a gas one, and oil-fired or electric heating. If not, get a good quality natural gas detector that will give you an early warning of any leaks. Some can be linked to the gas supply to automatically cut it off — which is especially helpful if a leak occurs while you're out, so you don't walk into a house full of gas while unaware of the danger. You can also get detectors for propane, butane and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) if you use gas cylinders, for example, on a boat.
  • If you don't have a good sense of smell, be careful when using household cleaners in areas that are not well-ventilated. In particular, avoid paints high in VOCs (volatile organic compounds); they are often toxic and can make you feel giddy or nauseous if you're unaware of the odour and stay too close to them for too long. If you're exposed to chemicals at work contact your company's health and safety officers to discuss how to minimize the risks.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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