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  • Joanna Injore

What do I eat during chemo- Part 2

A focus on food safety advice...

In Part 1 of "What do I eat during chemo' series we were talking about what to eat when you are struggling with you appetite (read it here) this post is going to focus on food safety.

When you are having cancer treatment such as chemotherapy your body’s ability to fight infections may be reduced so could increase your risk of food related infections.

It is very important during this time to avoid be too restrictive, so you continue to eat well (see part 1 for more advice) but also protect yourself by following good food safety and hygiene.

Shopping tips

food safety during chemotherapy - shopping

  1. Try to pack raw and ready-to-eat food in separate bags

  2. Check shopping bags regularly for food spills and throw them away if this happens

  3. Buy products well within the ‘Use-by dates’.

Use-by dates is about the safety of food, food is only safe to eat until the use-by date and not after this date.

‘Best-before’ dates or BBE (best before end) are describing the quality of food. Food eaten after this date may not be at it’s best (it may have an different texture or taste)

4. Avoid buying bruised or damaged fruit and vegetables or damaged packages

5. Try to buy chilled and frozen food last when you are shopping and transfer to the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.

Filling up your fridge and freezer

food safety during chemotherapy - storing food

When you pack your fridge or freezer after shopping avoid over filling, so that there is enough air to circulate. This will keep your fridge/freezer at a consistent temperature

Your fridge temperature should be at 5c or below and your freezer below -18c

Keep raw meat, chicken, fish at the bottom of the fridge shelf and cooked and ready to eat foods at the top.

Store eggs in the fridge where they can be kept at a constant temperature.

Check your fridge regularly to clean and throw away any food past the use-by date foods

Preparing your meals

food safety during chemotherapy - preparing food

Always wash and dry your hands before preparing, cooking or eating anything.

Clean your work surfaces before preparing any food.

Use different chopping boards, plates and utensils for raw foods, vegetables and cooked foods.

Avoid washing raw meat to limit bacterial cross-contamination around the kitchen

Wash fruit and vegetables with cold water before eating.


food safety during chemotherapy - cooking

Defrost frozen food in the fridge, not at room temperature and cook straight away.

Make sure when you are cooking pork, chicken or minced meat it is hot and cooked all the way through. The juices should run clear and the meat should not be pink.

If you are using a microwave for cooking turn and stir the food halfway through cooking so the food cooks evenly.

Cool cooked food quickly at room temperature (divide into smaller portions so it cools down quicker) and then place in the fridge or freezer

Serve hot food soon after cooking so it remains hot

Avoid reheating cooked food more than once

Avoid refreezing thawed food

Eating out

food hygiene food safety during chemotherapy eating out

Check the Food Standards website for the food hygiene ratings for restaurants or takeaway venues.

Always ask for your food to be freshly prepared.

Make sure your food hot and cooked all the way through.

High risk foods to avoid

Some foods have a greater risk of carrying bacteria (such as salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and toxoplasmosis) which can cause food poisoning.

During cancer treatment these high risk foods should be avoided:

  • Unpasteurised milk

  • Uncooked soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert and mould-ripened and blue veined cheese Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton

  • Pate- fish, vegetarian and meat

  • Pink or rare red meat, poultry and meat producrs

  • Raw seafood e.g. oysters or shellfish

  • Eggs without the Red Lion Mark

Please note your hospital may provide you with different guidance depending on your individual blood results or treatment. So always ask for advice.

If you would like to find out more about planning your diet during chemo contact me here


Food Standards Agency Food safety and hygiene

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