Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Winter 2002

Are Clinical Trials For You?
Nutrition & You: The Importance of Food Safety
New Cancer Resources
News Anchor Works to Increase Breast Cancer Awareness
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Nutrition and You: The Importance of Food Safety

The Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital has received a grant to study the effects of diet – specifically safe food handling, preparation, cooking and storage – and the incidence of neutropenia (the drop in white blood cells) during chemotherapy. Bacteria consumption through food is minimized by thoroughly cooking meats, fish and poultry as well as using cooked or canned fruits and vegetables. This pilot study will proceed through June 2002.

Even when blood counts are normal, food safety principles apply to everyone. In particular, individuals with cancer should be aware of food safety because their immune systems are often weakened by chemotherapy. Healthy individuals who have food borne illness may have some uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps and vomiting.

For the cancer patient, food borne illness can be very dangerous and may cause more serious complications. Be sure the food that you eat is safe. Pay attention to the purchase, preparation, cooking and storage of foods to prevent food borne illness.

Safe shopping: Don't buy dented cans or foods with damaged packages. Check expiration dates and put refrigerated or frozen foods in the refrigerator within an hour of shopping.

Safe storage: Check that your refrigerator runs between 34 and 40° F and the freezer temperature is less than 0°F. Keep raw meats, fish and poultry in a plastic bag on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so they don't drip raw juices onto other foods.

Safe Handling: Wash your hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling foods and eating. Be sure to wash all counter tops, cutting boards and rags. Clean up spills in the refrigerator, microwave and oven. An effective sanitizer is one tablespoon of bleach to a quart of water (freshen daily). Rinse dishcloths in this solution and open them up to dry or replace daily with a clean sponge or dishcloth. Cleaning surfaces with dirty rags can spread bacteria.

Safe cooking: Cook foods thoroughly avoiding raw meats, poultry, fish and eggs. A meat thermometer is helpful to determine if the meat has been sufficiently cooked. Red meat should be cooked to 145° – 160° and poultry 160° – 170°F. After serving, place hot foods into shallow containers to cool. Leave hot foods out for no more than two hours and then refrigerate properly.

Bacteria thrive and grow quickly within 40° – 140°F.The smell and appearance of food does not necessarily tell you when it is no longer good to eat. Foods can be bad well before they start to smell bad. That is why it is important to chill properly and cook to a level that will kill any bacteria.

For leftovers, only reheat the amount of food you feel you are going to eat at that time. Reheat foods one time only. If you are using a microwave to reheat, be sure to turn the plate and stir the food as microwaves tend to heat unevenly. Use leftover meals within four days.

How Long Food Is Good For
Once It's In The Refrigerator?





7 days

1 month

Roasts, steaks

3-5 days

6-12 months

Ground beef

1-2 days

3-4 months


1-2 days

9 months – 1 year

Eggs, fresh in shell

3 weeks

Do not freeze

Hard cooked eggs

1 week

Do not freeze

Canned ham

6-9 months

Do not freeze

Sliced ham

3-4 days

1-2 months

Hot dogs

1 week after opening
2 weeks unopened

1-2 months

Fish 1-2 days

1-2 days

6 months (lean fish)
2-3 months (fatty fish)

Ketchup opened

6 months

Do not freeze


3-5 days opened
2 weeks unopened

Do not freeze

Mayonnaise opened

2 months

Do not freeze

Meat and poultry cooked

3-4 days

2-3 months


3-5 days

4-6 months

Salad dressing opened

3 months

Do not freeze

Salsa opened

1 month

Do not freeze

Spaghetti sauce opened

5-7 days

Do not freeze

Source: A Quick Consumer Guide to Safe Food Handling, House and Garden Bulletin 248, August 1995 and The Food Keeper: A Consumer Guide to Food Quality and Safe Handling, Food Marketing Institute,Washington, DC,March 1996.


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