Food safety

Cancer and some treatments such as chemotherapy and stem cell transplants can weaken the body’s immune system by affecting white blood cells that protect against infection. If you’re having these treatments, you’ll be encouraged to take care preparing, handling and storing food as a weakened immune system can make you more susceptible to foodborne illness.

Topics on this page:

Making safer food choices

Food type

Safe action

Precautions to take


Cook thoroughly

  • Refrigerate leftover chicken immediately – don’t let it cool on the benchtop
  • Eat within 24 hours. Reheat until steaming hot
  • Avoid purchased, ready-to-eat chicken


Cook thoroughly

  • Refrigerate leftover food immediately – don’t let it cool on the benchtop
  • Eat within 24 hours. Reheat until steaming hot


Eat well-cooked, fresh seafood

  • Refrigerate leftover seafood immediately and eat within 24 hours
  • Avoid raw seafood (e.g. oysters, sashimi or sushi) and ready-to-eat peeled prawns
  • Avoid smoked, ready-to-eat seafood

cold meats (home cooked)

Store in fridge

  • Avoid unpackaged ready-to-eat cold meats from the deli counter or packaged, sliced ready-to-eat cold meats


Eat freshly made

  • Avoid pre-made sandwiches


Wash thoroughly before preparing

  • Refrigerate leftover salad immediately and eat within 24 hours
  • Avoid ready-to-eat or prepackaged deli salads, including pre-cut fruit salads


Eat hard or processed cheese (e.g. cream cheese, cottage cheese)

  • Store cheese in fridge
  • Avoid soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses (e.g. brie, camembert, ricotta, fetta and blue)

other dairy products

Store pasteurised milk, yoghurt and custard in fridge

  • Avoid unpasteurised or raw dairy products

packaged food

Use within use-by dates

  • Store unused portions in fridge in clean, sealed containers and use within 24 hours


Keep frozen

  • Avoid soft serve ice-cream
Read more about safer food choices

General precautions

  • Wash your hands and knives, cutting boards and food preparation areas thoroughly with hot soapy water before cooking.
  • Take care when eating out, as it can be difficult to know whether food safety guidelines are being followed. Where possible, ask for meals to be made fresh and avoid pre-prepared foods that have been sitting for unknown periods of time.

This information was last reviewed in May 2016
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