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Food Safety: Enjoy Summer During Cancer Treatment

By Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES June 18, 2014Pearls of Wisdom Blog

June is National Safety Month. Here at PearlPoint Cancer Support we are especially keen about food safety for cancer survivors during the summer.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 48 million people are affected by food-borne illness in the United States each year, including 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Foodborne illness is on the rise in the U.S. for certain types of pathogens especially those from deli meats, raw fish, and salmonella-contaminated foods.

During the warmer temperatures of June, July, and August, the reports of foodborne illness increase. Why are there more cases of foodborne illnesses in the summer? It may be from eating picnic or BBQ foods that have been in the sun too long. Many holiday gatherings include large amounts of food prepared at one time, perhaps without proper food storage. In summer, you may eat more hot dogs, raw fish, or store prepared salads that can carry bacteria. All these factors put people at risk of foodborne illness.

Before cancer treatment, you may have been able to eat food that sat in the fridge for a week or snack on unwashed fruit without side effects. You may have eaten rare steak or fried chicken that stayed out on the counter for hours and never experienced food illness.

Now, as a cancer survivor, things are different. Due to a compromised immune system, you may not be able to fight these germs that carry illness. In fact, an upset stomach and fever from a foodborne illness can quickly turn into a medical emergency if a cancer survivor with a compromised immune system is exposed to these germs.

You can still eat safely in the summer! You don’t have to miss out on the fun. Adopt these new, healthy food behaviors to keep you well this summer.

The top four food safety behaviors recommended by the FDA are:

Clean Up: Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food.. Clean surfaces in your kitchen often. Wash food with running water before cooking. There’s no need to buy special “food wash” products that may contain chemicals.

Chill Out: Be sure to store cold foods quickly at 40 degrees or less. If refrigerating a large amount of food, divide the food into separate containers so the food can reach a safe temperature more quickly.

Separate It: Keep raw meats away from other foods. Have separate cutting surfaces for different foods. For example, use one board for vegetables and fruits and another for meats and fish.

Heat On: Cook foods to the right temperature. Do not rely on the color of the meat inside or the meat juices to know that the meat is done! Use this chart to know the right temperatures:

Meat Internal Temperature
Ground Beef 165 F
Chicken 165 F
Steak 160 F
Pork 170 F
Whole Chicken 180 F
Reheated Leftovers 165 F

Vvisit theU.S. Food and Drug and Administration or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Author Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Nutrition Educator Margaret Martin is a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist in the State of Tennessee as well as a Certified Diabetes Educator. Margaret graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and received her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Public Health from the University of Tennessee. With more than 10 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition, Margaret has also worked in the insurance industry with WellPoint Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield providing telephonic nutrition consultations, service assistance, and web-based nutrition education. In her free time Margaret volunteers with the American Lung Association’s annual “Lung Force Walk" in Middle Tennessee. She belongs to the Oncology Nutrition & Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

More posts by Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

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