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Food Safety During Cancer Treatments

Unfortunately, in the process of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, many of the body's healthy cells are also damaged or destroyed along with the diseased cells, so both the disease and its treatment weaken the body's immune system. Without this important protection, your body has a harder time fighting infection and disease.

It’s important to remember this during treatment and recovery so you can avoid being exposed to infection. Most importantly, be very careful when buying and handling food and when eating at restaurants. The following food safety tips apply for everyone, but are especially important for people whose immune system is compromised.

Foods to avoid:

  • Unwashed raw vegetables and fruits
  • All raw vegetable sprouts, such as alfalfa and mung beans
  • Unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices
  • Raw and undercooked meat, fish, poultry and eggs, and meats and cold cuts from a deli
  • Unpasteurized milk and milk products, including cheese and yogurt, and cheeses with molds such as blue, Roquefort, gorgonzola, and Stilton
  • Salad dressings that contain aged cheese (such as blue or Roquefort) or raw eggs
  • Raw or non-heat treated honey and honey in the comb
  • Well water, unless it is tested every year and found safe
  • Herbal preparations and nutrient supplements
  • Unroasted nuts and roasted nuts in the shell

Food handling tips:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water with a clean vegetable scrubber before peeling or cutting.
  • Do not buy produce, such as cantaloupe or cabbage, that has been precut at the grocery store.
  • Cook eggs until the whites are completely hard and the yolks begin to thicken. While the yolk should no longer be runny, it does not need to be hard.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Refrigerate foods at or below 40° F.
  • Do not thaw meat, fish or poultry at room temperature; thaw in a microwave or in a refrigerator.
  • Do not refreeze thawed frozen food.
  • Do not leave egg dishes and mayonnaise-based foods unrefrigerated for more than one hour.
  • Throw away eggs with cracked shells.
  • In the refrigerator, store raw meat sealed and away from ready-to-eat food.
  • Juice products should be 100 percent vegetable or fruit juices and should be pasteurized to eliminate harmful microorganisms.

Water wisdom:

  • If your water is not from a city water or municipal water supply, use boiled, distilled or bottled water.
  • Commercial water filters will not make the water safe if the water supply has not been chlorinated.
  • To make tap water safe, heat and bring to a rolling boil for one minute.

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