Food safety is essential for everyone, but is especially important if you are suffering from cancer. Preparation and storage varies according to the type of cancer you bear, its treatment and your immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and other viruses present in food. Adhering to all the right safety steps when it comes to food preparation will ensure that your body stays protected from foodborne illnesses during the course of your cancer treatment. The rule of thumb is that a cancer patient’s diet should consist of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, beans, lean meat and low-fat dairy to preserve your body’s strength and immune system against the demands of cancer treatment. If your diet checks all these boxes, focus should then be turned towards maintaining a high standard of food safety.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap under running water before and after you cook or eat. This is the most important step in food safety. Wash your hands thoroughly also before and after handling foods, handling garbage, dressing wounds, and using the washroom.
- Wash and rinse all fruits and vegetables under running water to remove excess dirt. Even fruits such as melons, oranges, and other thick-skinned fruits that have to be peeled before they are eaten need to be washed to prevent bacteria from entering the fruit while cutting.
- Clean your kitchen platform, utensils, chopping boards, cutleries and related tools with clean towels or paper towels. Wash the utensils and cutleries again when switching between chopping vegetables, cutting fruits or slicing meat.
- Foods such as raw meat, poultry and fish should be refrigerated separately in individual bags before their time of use. This is to ensure that the foods do not come into contact with each other, resulting in contamination.
- Store dry, packaged or canned foods in a suitable storage area with temperatures between 40ºF and 140ºF.
- Use separate cutleries and cutting boards for meats, fish and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
- If you plan to eat at a later time, store your fully-cooked meals in the refrigerator and consume within 2 hours of preparation. Avoid eating leftovers.
- Immediately refrigerate or freeze foods that require cold temperatures.
C. The Right Way to Prepare and Consume Meals
- Always allow frozen or refrigerated foods to defrost and thaw properly before cooking.
- Always eat fully-cooked meals. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meals such as sushi, or eggs in mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce and Caesar salad dressing.
- Avoid consuming food in dented cans or packaged food with broken seals.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to its required temperature, especially when cooking meats. Do not rely on the colour or texture of the meat to ascertain if it is fully cooked.
- Avoid products such as unpasteurised milk, eggnog, juices, ciders and cheese.
- Avoid consuming vegetables and fibres that should be eaten raw.
- Serve cooked food on clean dishes and avoid reusing dishes which have previously held raw meat. Only reuse the dishes after washing them thoroughly with dish soap under running water.
- Double-check the expiry date on food packaging labels, both before purchase, and before consumption.