World Cancer Day 2015: The importance of food safety for patients and survivors

FoodSafety-CancerRibbon_blogThe Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has declared February 4 World Cancer Day and while there are many initiatives going on around the world to raise awareness and inform people about cancer, many do not connect why food safety is also very important in the fight against cancer.

In a recent article, Howard Seltzer of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, discusses several important factors of food safety for the nearly 15 million Americans who are cancer survivors and the 1.7 million people in the United States projected to be diagnosed with cancer this year.

He writes that because the treatment of cancer typically involves chemotherapy, radiation, and/or medications to help fight the disease, a side effect of these therapies is a weakened immune system. Also, since almost half of cancer survivors are 70-years-old or more, they have the natural weakening of the immune system that comes with age.

A weakened immune system can make individuals more susceptible to infections, including those brought on by disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens in food, and can also make those individuals more likely to have longer and more serious illnesses. That being said, it’s essential that cancer patients and survivors make a lifelong commitment to minimize their risk of foodborne illness.

Foods to avoid:

  • Raw or undercooked meat or poultry.
  • Raw fish, partially cooked seafood (such as shrimp and crab), and refrigerated smoked seafood.
  • Raw shellfish (including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) and their juices.
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and products made with raw milk, like yogurt and cheese.
  • Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheeses.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs or foods containing raw or undercooked eggs, including certain homemade salad dressings (such as Caesar), homemade cookie dough and cake batters, and homemade eggnog.
  • Unwashed fresh vegetables, including lettuce/salads.
  • Unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices (these juices will carry a warning label).
  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats (cold cuts), fermented and dry sausage, and other deli-style meats, poultry products, and smoked fish — unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Salads (without added preservatives) prepared on site in a deli-type establishment, such as ham salad, chicken salad, or seafood salad.
  • Unpasteurized, refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads.
  • Raw sprouts (alfalfa, bean, or any other sprout).

The article also suggests following four additional food safety steps that can decrease your susceptibility to foodborne illness. These include:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
  • Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods
  • Cook: Cook to the right temperatures
  • Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly

For more information, click here.


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