Food handling and preparation for cancer patients

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Español (Spanish)

During cancer treatment, there will be times when your body will not be able to defend itself as it used to because you may experience a weakening of your immune system from a decrease in white blood cells that help fight infection. Due to this, it is recommended to avoid exposure to microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria that cause infection, which can be found when preparing food.

In this article you will find some recommendations for food handling and preparation, especially if your immune system is a bit weakened. Remember that you cannot avoid or eat any type of food to raise your white blood cell count, this is why we urge you to follow the recommendations to protect your health.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing food.
  •  Wash fruits and vegetables well with running water, do not use soap, bleach or any other detergent solution when washing agricultural products. Discard fruits or vegetables that have some kind of stickiness and fungus.
  •  Do not buy fruits or vegetables that have been cut in the supermarket.
  •  Keep cold or frozen food at temperatures below 5 ° C. When buying cold or frozen foods, remember that you have a maximum period of two hours to store them in the refrigerator.
  • Defrost meat, fish or chicken in the refrigerator or with the help of the microwave. Never defrost food by leaving it for long periods at room temperature.
  • When defrosting a food, prepare it immediately, it is not recommended that you refreeze a portion of the food if it is already defrosted.
  • Wash food or beverage cans with soap and water before opening.
  •  Do not eat food with a strange appearance or smell or expired food.
  • Use a clean and different knife for each type of food: meats, vegetables and fruits, raw and cooked foods
  • Similarly, use one cutting board for raw meats and a different one for vegetables and other foods. Avoid using wooden cutting boards as they can more easily harbor microorganisms; the use of glass boards is preferable.
  • Clean the kitchen surfaces where you are going to prepare or cook food with hot soapy water, you can also use chlorine water (one part chlorine to 10 parts water).
  • If you are cooking meat, insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, meats should be at 70 ° C and poultry at 82 ° C. Cook the meat until the color is no longer pink and the juices are clear.
  • Always check the expiration date of all foods, if they are already expired or there is a short time for them to expire, do not buy them.
  • Do not buy damaged, dented or inflated food cans.
  • Avoid buying prepared foods from the supermarket or consuming samples.
  • Avoid desserts or pastries that contain milk, pastry cream and custard that are not refrigerated.
  • Buy meats and frozen foods to the end. Do not leave purchases in the cart for a long time.
  • Ask them to prepare your food with fresh ingredients and at the moment
  • Avoid containers with sauces or condiments that are usually placed on the table, these have been manipulated by many other people
  • Avoid salad bars, buffet food or consume food at street food stalls
  • It is recommended to request bottled and pasteurized drinks over natural juices or soft drinks prepared in the restaurant
  • Avoid the consumption of raw foods such as sushi, ceviche, salmon or others.
  • Cook the eggs until the yolk and white have solidified. Avoid runny yolk eggs.
  • Verify that dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, among others, are properly pasteurized.
  • Avoid unpasteurized or mushroom-aged cheeses with blue streaks, such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, and blue cheese
  • Drink clean and previously treated water. If you travel to another country, it is better to drink only bottled water.
  • Avoid virgin honey or honey extracted directly from the comb. Heat treated commercial honey is preferred.

Bibliography Food safety during cancer treatment. Available at:

Grant BL, Bloch AS, Hamilton KK, Thomson CA. American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Survivors, 2nd Edition. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2010.

American Cancer Society. Nutrition for the Individual During Cancer Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families, 2019.

This site is registered on as a development site.