FOOD SAFETY FOR CANCER PATIENTS
Food safety is essential for everyone, but it is especially important if you are suffering from cancer. Preparation and storage will vary across the type of cancer you bear, its treatment and your immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and other viruses present in food. Therefore, performing all the right steps can protect your body from foodborne illnesses. The rule of thumb is to have a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pulses, beans, lean meat and low-fat dairy to preserve your body’s strength and immune system throughout your demanding cancer treatment. If you have those items checked, here’s all you need to know about food safety.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you cook or eat. This is the earliest and most important step in food safety.
- Wash your hands with soap under running water before and after handling food, touching pets, handling garbage, dressing wounds, and using the washroom.
- Clean your kitchen platform, utensils, chopping boards, cutlery and other relevant tools with clean towels, sponges or paper towels. Wash the utensils and cutlery again when switching between different foods (e.g. chopping vegetables and slicing meat)
- Wash and rinse all fruits and vegetables under running water to remove excess dirt. Even fruits such as melons, oranges, and other thick-skinned fruits that are peeled before eating need to be washed to avoid bacteria from entering the fruit while cutting.
2. Sorting Food
- Foods such as raw meat, poultry, fish, and others tend to release juices before preparation. Should they come in contact with other foods, chances are they would be contaminated or spoil easily. To prevent this, place all fresh meat and fish in individual bags right from the grocery and store them separately in the refrigerator before use.
- Use separate cutlery and cutting board for meats, fish and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
- Serve cooked food on clean dishes and avoid reusing dishes which have held raw meat. Only reuse the dishes after washing them thoroughly with dish soap.
- Avoid purchasing or consuming dented canned food, or packaged food with broken seals.
- Always eat well-cooked meals.
- Avoid eating meals which contain raw meat such as sushi, or undercooked eggs in mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce or Caesar dressing.
- Always use a food thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked to a safe temperature, especially with meats. Do not rely on the colour or texture of the meat to confirm its cooking levels.
4. Storing Food
- Store food in a suitable storage area with temperatures between 40ºF and 140ºF.
- Do Not eat leftover foods. Store all food in the refrigerator and consume within 2 hours of preparation.
- Immediately refrigerate or freeze foods that require cold temperatures.
- Always defrost and heat frozen foods before consuming them.
5. General Food Safety
- Avoid unpasteurised dairy products such as unpasteurised milk, eggnog, juices, ciders and cheese.
- Double-Check the ‘Best By’ and ‘Expiry Date’ labels on food packaging before purchase and consumption.
- Avoid raw vegetables and fibers.
- Choose made-to-order and freshly cooked foods over delis and self-serve buffet restaurants.
Apart from these guidelines, you could also speak to your healthcare professional to help you make informed decisions with regards to food consumption. Based on your treatment schedule and tolerance towards the treatment, they would be able to help you decide on which plan would work best for you with all the necessary food safety measures in mind