Food Safety Smarts for Patients With Cancer

Amanda Bontempo

People going through anti-cancer treatments may have a suppressed immune system, making them more vulnerable to everyday exposures. The majority of patients on treatment do not get sick from food contamination, but it remains important to stay vigilant.

The list that many patients get at the start of treatment of foods to avoid during chemo looks a bit like that during pregnancy. Avoid: unwashed raw fruits and vegetables; raw or under-cooked meat and seafood; raw milk and milk products; and salad bars.

Surprisingly, eating food that has been on the shelf or in the fridge past the date on the package won't put you at high risk for foodborne illness. 
Defining Dates
The federal government doesn't require foods, other than infant formula, to carry a date label and even then, the concern is nutrients, not safety. The USDA offers these general definitions:
Food Safety Smarts

Ensuring that patients and caregivers maintain basic food safety practices are the key to reducing risk of food-related contamination.

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Amanda Bontempo, MS RD CSO CDN
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