Information Update - Food Safety for People with Weakened Immune Systems

Feb 28, 2013, 14:00 ET from Health Canada

OTTAWA, Feb. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the importance of food safety for people with weakened immune systems.

When you are ill, your immune system can be weakened, which makes it harder for your body to fight off infections. Examples of people who may have weakened immune systems include transplant patients and those with diabetes, HIV, as well as some cancer patients. It is extremely important for people with weakened immune systems to avoid eating certain foods, in order to help lower their risk of foodborne illness.

People with weakened immune systems, and their caregivers,should also follow the four key steps to food safety: Cook; Clean; Chill and Separate.

Cook - Always cook food to the safe internal temperatures. You can check this by using a digital food thermometer. Colour alone is not a reliable indicator that meat is safe to eat. Meat can turn brown before all the bacteria are killed.

Clean - Properly clean anything that comes in contact with the food (your hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils, reusable grocery bags, etc.).This will help eliminate bacteria and reduce your risk of foodborne illness. In addition, fruits and vegetables should be washed under running water that is suitable for drinking.

Chill - It is extremely important to keep cold food cold and hot food hot so that your food never reaches the "temperature danger zone," which is between 4oC and 60oC (40oF and 140oF). Defrosting raw meat, poultry and fish should be done in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or immersed in cold water (replaced every 30 minutes), never at room temperature. Foods defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

Separate - It is important to always separate your raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from ready-to-eat foods, such as cooked meat and vegetables, to avoid cross-contamination.

Close attention should also be paid to the foods themselves. Some foods are at a higher risk for foodborne illness than others.

  • Avoid non-dried deli meats, such as bologna, roast beef, and turkey breast unless they are fully cooked.
  • Avoid hot dogs straight out of the package. Make sure to cook hot dogs until they are steaming hot before eating them.
  • Don't eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood.
  • Avoid refrigerated smoked fish or seafood.
  • Avoid unpasteurized juice, cider and milk.
  • Avoid all soft and semi-soft cheeses made from raw or unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses from pasteurized milk.
  • Avoid refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads.
  • Avoid uncooked foods made from raw or unpasteurized eggs.
  • Avoid raw sprouts such as alfalfa and mung beans.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of foodborne illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

For more information on the food safety for those with weakened immune systems, please visit:

Healthy Canadians

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SOURCE Health Canada