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Principles of Food Safety during Cancer Treatment

Nutrition section

What are they?

They are practices to be adopted in the kitchen to reduce the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms on food, utensils and kitchen surfaces that can be harmful to health.

Why is it important?

  • To reduce the chances of foodborne illness.
  • During treatments, the immune system can be weakened, so extra precautions are necessary.

The principles are presented here and a visual demonstration is available in the Food safety capsule

The advice provided in the VIE project is of general nature for children undergoing cancer treatments. It is not adapted for children who are undergoing stem cell transplant or who must follow a diet low in microorganisms.


  • Wash hands and fingernails with warm water and soap before cooking. Keeping nails short makes them easier to clean.
  • Wearing gloves is not a substitute for hand washing. Gloves are not sterile and can be contaminated by bacteria.
2. Do not use the same cutting board for fruits & vegetables and for meat.

Why not?
  • Fruits & vegetables could be contaminated with meat bacteria.
  • Fruits & vegetables are often eaten raw or are not cooked enough to kill meat bacteria.
3. Use utensils and boards that are not made of wood.
4. After each use, disinfect the cutting board by following these simple steps:
  • Clean the board in hot soapy water.
  • Rinse.
  • Spray the board with a disinfectant solution and leave for a few minutes.
  • Allow to dry.

Disinfectant solutions can be found in stores or made at home by mixing:

  • 1 teaspoon of bleach + 3 cups of water
5. Fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs must be well washed, even those whose peel is not eaten (e.g., onion, melon, avocado, etc.).

Why should I clean them?
When cutting the fruit or vegetable, the knife touches both the skin and the flesh you eat. The flesh can therefore be contaminated by microorganisms or dirt present on the skin.

How to do it?
Under cold water, brush the food with a vegetable brush.

6. Disinfect the vegetable brush after each use. Make sure the brush is reserved for cleaning vegetables.

Steps to follow:

  • Clean the vegetable brush in hot water.
  • Soak the brush in a disinfectant solution for a few minutes.
  • Rinse the brush and allow to dry until next use.

Disinfectant solutions can be found in stores or made at home by mixing:

  • 1 teaspoon of bleach + 3 cups of water
7. Wash the tops of the cans and the can opener with soapy water.

So that the dirt on the can does not come into contact with its inside.

8. For each recipe, make sure that the dish/meat is completely cooked. For more details, see the MAPAQ website
9. Use recommended techniques for safe thawing:
  • Place the food or dish in the refrigerator the day before using it.
  • Defrost the food in the microwave just before using the food for the recipe.
  • Place the food in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes to make sure the food stays cool.


About this page
Updated on 7/9/2020
Created on 7/9/2020
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