Senior students in Lipscomb University’s Didactic Program in Dietetics contribute blogs to PearlPoint’s Pearls of Wisdom. View all student blogs here.
Cancer and cancer treatments can compromise your immune system. To minimize the risk of infection or foodborne illness, healthcare professionals often recommend that their immunocompromised patients follow food safety guidelines closely.
Patients with a weakened immune system should avoid foods that are more often associated with foodborne illness such as raw or rare meat and fish and unpasteurized dairy products. You can also reduce the risk of foodborne illness by following a these food safety guidelines.
Keep foods out of the danger zone. The danger zone refers to the range of temperature between 40°F and 140°F. This is the temperature range in which most bacteria live, divide, and thrive. In order to protect your food from microorganisms, it’s important not to let your food sit out at room temperature for more than an hour.
Bottom line: Store food properly. If you can’t remember how long that milk or chicken has been sitting out on the counter, throw it out.
Perfect your washing technique. Washing your produce with a vegetable scrubbing brush under running water and, if desired, a food-safe soap will help you to clean off bacteria living on the surface of your produce. This will help to physically remove some of the potentially harmful bacteria from your produce.
Bottom line: You can remove bacteria from produce with a good washing technique.
Turn up the heat on your produce. Baking, steaming, or using another method of high heat to cook your produce will help kill unwanted bacteria. The high heat causes the bacteria to die in the cooking process.
Bottom line: High temperatures kill bacteria, so go ahead and turn up the heat.
Make it a well-done meal. Invest in a meat thermometer to monitor internal temperatures while cooking. Cook meats well done to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Click here for a chart of meats and their safe internal minimum temperature.
Bottom line: Cook foods to a safe internal minimum temperature.
Ditch out-of-date food. Food manufacturers place expiration dates on foods for consumer safety, so check them often. However, some foods, such as produce, do not have an expiration date printed on them, so make sure to inspect your food for softened areas, unpleasant smells and discoloration. Write the date on all leftovers and throw them away after three days.
Bottom line: If your food is past its glory days, throw it away.
Incorporate these food safety tips into your food preparation to worry less and enjoy your food more.
Kallan Hoover, Senior Student in the Lipscomb University Didactic Program in Dietetics
Note from PearlPoint Nutrition Services: You may encounter the term “neutropenic diet.” This diet was supposed to help individuals with neutropenia learn how to decrease exposure to bacteria in some foods. In a review of studies, the neutropenic diet was never proven to decrease exposure to bacteria in foods. Safe preparation and handling of foods is more important than restricting intake of specific food groups. Food guidelines for immunosuppressed patients vary among cancer centers. Ask your doctor for any special instructions.
10 Tips: Be Food Safe. (2017, July 18). Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-be-food-safe
Fox, N. (2012). Moving Away from the Neutropenic Diet and Towards a Safe Food Handling Approach. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(9). doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.119
G. (2015, February 26). Diet Guidelines For Immunosuppressed Patients. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.lls.org/managing-your-cancer/diet-guidelines-for-immunosuppressed-patients
Kitchen, F. N. (2017, April 21). Meat and Poultry Temperature Guide. Retrieved from https://www.foodnetwork.com/grilling/grilling-central-how-tos/articles/meat-and-poultry-temperature-guide