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patient education : 16130--Food Safety Guidelines

provides general food safety recommendations for oncology patients whose immune systems are depressed.

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    Food Safety Guidelines

    It is important for you to eat a healthy and balanced diet to help minimize complications and recover from your treatment.  Following food safety recommendations is important to help decrease consumption of disease-causing bacteria that can spoil foods and lead to illnesses.  It is important to know and practice safe food-handling behaviors to help reduce your risk of getting sick from contaminated food.  The risk posed depends on where food comes from and how it is processed, stored, and prepared.   Make smart choices -

    Select foods at lower risk for causing foodborne illness: 

    Food Group

    Lower Risk

    Higher Risk

    Meat and poultry

    Cooked to proper temperature (see “min. safe   cooking temperature” chart)

    Raw or undercooked

    Fish and seafood

    Cooked to proper temperature (see “min. safe   cooking temperature” chart)

    Raw or undercooked


    Pasteurized milk

    Unpasteurized milk


    Fully cooked


    Using pasteurized eggs/egg products when   preparing recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs


    Most pre-made food from grocery stores (like   Caesar dressing, pre-made cookie dough, or packaged eggnog are made with   pasteurized eggs)

    Soft boiled or “over-easy” eggs since the   yolks are not fully cooked


    Foods that contain raw/undercooked eggs   (like homemade Caesar salad dressing, cookie dough, eggnog)


    Cooked sprouts

    Raw sprouts

    Vegetables and fruits

    Washed fresh vegetables and fruits


    Thick-skinned vegetables and fruits that are   peeled


    Pasteurized vegetable and fruit juices

    Unwashed fresh vegetables and fruits


    Unpasteurized vegetable and fruit juices

    Meat alternatives

    Pasteurized, cooked self-stable tofu or   tempeh

    Unpasteurized, uncooked tofu or tempeh


    Hard, processed cheeses


    Cream cheese


    Soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk

    Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk   (like feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso fresco)

    Deli meats

    Reheated deli meats, hot dogs

    Deli meats from the grocery store and from   restaurants that have not been reheated


    Grade A Honey


    All spices added to food during cooking,   Condiments

    Raw honey or honeycomb


    Raw spices (in bulk)

    Four Steps to Food Safety

    1.  Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often

    Germs can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.  To keep your hands and surfaces clean, be sure to:

    • Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food
    • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water; rinse and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels
    • Remember to clean lids of canned goods before opening.  Wash the can opener after each use
    • If you use a blender, wash it well after each use.
    1.  Separate: Prevent cross-contamination

    Cross contamination occurs when germs are spread from one food product to another.  This can occur when handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.  Keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

    • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and your refrigerator
    • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood
    • Never place cooked food on a plate that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs without first washing the plate with hot soapy water
    • Do not reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.
    1.  Cook: Cook to proper temperatures

    Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.  Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the food to get an accurate temperature.  Check the internal temperature in several places to make sure items are cooked all the way through. 

    Test your thermometer.  When placed in boiling water it should read 212 degrees F

    Minimum safe cooking temperatures

    145 degrees F

    Steaks and roasts, fish, seafood

    160 degrees F

    Ground beef, pork, egg dishes

    165 degrees F

    Ground poultry, chicken breasts, whole   poultry


    Re-heated leftovers and luncheon meats, hot   dogs


    Sauces, soups, gravies

    Chill: Refrigerate promptly

    Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria.  Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of foodborne illness.  Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is consistently below 40 degrees F or below and the freezer temperature is 0 degrees F or below.  To chill foods properly:

    • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood within 2 hours of purchasing or cooking.  Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees
    • Thaw foods properly, in the refrigerator or microwave; not at room temperature
    • Throw away all prepared food after 72 hours (3 days).  Put the date on refrigerated foods to keep track.

    At the grocery store:

    • Never buy food that is displayed in unsafe or unclean conditions
    • When  purchasing canned goods, make sure that they are free of dents, cracks, or  bulging lids
    • Put  foods that need refrigeration in your grocery cart last
    • Bring  a cooler to transport cold foods from the store to your refrigerator
    • Carefully read food labels while in the store to make sure food is not past its “sell by” date
    • A “sell by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.  You should buy the product before the date expires
    • A “use by” date is the last date suggested for the use of the product while  at top quality.  The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

    Dining out:

    • Do not eat raw meat or fish, even in small amounts
    • Ask how foods have been cooked.  If the  server does not know the answer, ask to speak to the chef to be sure your food has been cooked all the way through
    • Avoid  buffets, which may contain undercooked foods or foods that have been at  room temperature too long.  Order from a menu to minimize your risk
    • If  you plan to save leftovers to eat at a later time, refrigerate within 2  hours after purchase or delivery.   Make sure they are eaten within 3 days.
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