Food safety during and after treatment

If your immune system is weak, you are more at risk of getting food poisoning because you are less able to fight infection. You may also be less able to cope with the symptoms of food poisoning.

To reduce this risk, you should:

  • use ingredients that are as fresh as possible
  • use foods before the use-by date
  • store food and drink at the correct temperature (see the packaging for instructions)
  • wash your hands before you handle food
  • cook food thoroughly
  • avoid mouldy food
  • keep pets out of the kitchen
  • wash all fruit and vegetables well in cold running water – do not soak them unless you are using dried lentils or beans
  • clean cooking utensils and chopping boards thoroughly
  • wipe worktops with hot, soapy water or an anti-bacterial spray, particularly after you have used them to prepare raw meat or eggs
  • wash or replace dishcloths and tea towels regularly.

Storing, freezing and re-heating food

If you decide to store food to eat later, let it cool down completely and then store it in the fridge or freezer. Freezing extra portions can save you time later, and is a useful thing to do before your treatment starts. Remember to defrost your foods fully before re-heating them. This is especially important if you have low immunity due to treatment. Only reheat food once and make sure it is piping hot right through before you eat it. Take care not to burn your mouth or tongue if you are re-heating food.

Eating out

It is best to avoid eating out if your immunity is low. If you do eat out, eat somewhere where you know the food is freshly prepared and make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Avoid buying food from salad bars, buffets and street vendors, as it is difficult to know how fresh the food is. Also avoid having ice-cream from an ice-cream van.

Video: Eating problems and cancer

Dietitian Debbie Provan describes the eating problems that can be caused by cancer and its treatment, and gives tips for managing them. Conor, who had Ewing Sarcoma, talks about the eating problems he had.