Food Safety During Cancer Treatment

Some cancer treatments weaken the immune system, leading to an increased risk of infection. Therefore, it’s especially important to pay extra attention to food safety during treatment to reduce your risk of exposure to food-borne illnesses to avoid unnecessary infections.

The common steps for food safety are:

  • clean
  • separate
  • cook
  • refrigerate

The first step in food safety is to keep hands and surfaces clean at every step of preparation. Wash hands and surfaces frequently with hot, soapy water before and after handling food; rinse fruits and veggies thoroughly; wash countertops, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food and in between food items; and keep all other items off of tables or countertops where food is prepared.

The second step is to separate foods to avoid cross contamination. Take extra care when handing raw eggs, meats, poultry and seafood; keep these foods and their juices away from all other foods. Also keep these items separate from all others in the grocery cart, grocery bags and in the fridge, and have a specific cutting board designated for only these foods.

The third step is to cook food thoroughly. Safe minimum food temperatures are:

  • Beef (steaks and roasts): 145 F
  • Fish: 145 F (or until opaque and separates easily)
  • Pork: 145 F
  • Ground meat: 160 F
  • Egg and egg dishes: 160 F
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose): 165 F
  • Casseroles and leftovers: 165 F (no cold spots)

The fourth step is to refrigerate and store food properly. Keep your refrigerator at 40 F or cooler and your freezer at 0 or below (cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria). Refrigerate perishables as soon as you bring them home, and defrost food one of only three ways: in the refrigerator, under cold running water or using the defrost function in your microwave. Store leftovers in small, shallow containers for quicker, more efficient cooling, and keep track of stored food so you can discard when it’s no longer safe to eat.

Cookbooks for people with cancer

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