Food Safety Tips During Cancer Treatments

Food Safety Tips During Cancer Treatments


Anyone can get sick from eating “bad” food.  But cancer patients, whose immune system is already weakened from chemotherapy and radiation, are even more susceptible to infection from food or food poisoning which is why  food safety is such an important part of cancer care.

So here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)… 

When your immune system is weak, you need to stay away from bacteria and other organisms that could make you sick.  With this in mind, Compliance and Safety Training, a top supplier for safety training videos, has compiled Food Safety Tips: A Comprehensive Resource.  Although the tips below were written for the general public, they are especially important for cancer patients  to follow:

1.  Keep your space—and stomach—clean.  Maintain a clean and orderly kitchen.

2.  Practice smart shopping.

  • Purchase non-perishable items first.
  • Never choose packaging that is torn, dented, leaking, rusted, bulging, or otherwise damaged.
  • Check expiration dates and buy fresh products.
  • Note the “best before” label.

3.  Be alert for food recalls or alerts.

4.  Ensure safe storage.

  • Follow storage and cooking instructions as outlined on the label.
  • Set the correct temperature for your fridge (40 degrees F, or less) and freezer (0 degrees F, or less)
  • Cook (or freeze) fresh meat or fish within 2 days; beef, lamb, pork, and veal can last up to 5 days.
  • Preserve meat and poultry by wrapping it securely; you’ll also prevent the juices from leaking and contaminating other foods.
  • High-acid canned food (tomatoes, pineapple) can safely last for approximately 12-18 months on your pantry shelf.
  • Low-acid canned food (fish, vegetables, meat) can keep up to 5 years, if in good condition and in a suitably dry and cool location.

5.  Always wash your hands and, if needed, the food in question (even if it looks clean!).

6.  Keep sinks and counters clean, as clean as possible at all times.

7.  Beware cross-contamination. Keep raw and cooked foods apart. Food safety must always be a priority.

8.  Thoroughly cook your food. Undercooked food is a haven for germs and bad bacteria; ensure your food is hot all the way through with a food thermometer that can measure that internal temperature at the thickest part.

9.  Avoid eating raw meat and all raw seafood. 

10.  Put the fridge to good use;

  • Keep marinated meats (always in a covered dish!) and all perishable leftovers in the refrigerator (microorganisms won’t have a chance to multiply).
  • Don’t leave perishable food out for more than two hours (or, if it’s really hot, an hour at most).
  • Try to consume leftovers within 4 days.

11.  Thaw thoughtfully with these food safety tips:

  • The fridge offers the safest (but slowest) means of thawing. Meats in particular should always be thawed in the fridge.
  • Submerge your food in cold water for quicker thawing; be sure to change the water every half hour, and start cooking immediately when the food has been thawed.
  • Microwave thawing is fast but not as safe or healthy for your food; at least, be sure to cook immediately after thawing.

12.  Maintain the right temperature for your food; serve or maintain hot food at or below 140 degrees F, and cold food at or below 40 degrees F.

13.  Our oncologists also made the following suggestions:

Wear food service gloves when touching raw meat;

Thoroughly wash foods that you cut in to-even if you don’t eat the rind- like lemons, limes, oranges, watermelons, etc.;

Use paper towels (rather than cloth ones that get re-used time after time until washed) to dry off both your hands and foods after washing.

As always, with anything related to your cancer care, talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.  Also, ask them if they have any other food safety suggestions they’d like you to follow.  And please post them below.  Knowledge is power…. share the power p-l-e-a-s-e.

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