Food safety is as simple as ABC: Always Be Careful

food safetyIt’s mid-day and you are trying to figure out what to have for dinner. You decide on meatloaf, but the ground sirloin is in the freezer. Since you have a few hours, you set it on the counter to thaw and proceed to the next thing on your to do list. Despite what your parents may think or what you have done for years, this is not the safest way to thaw meat.

World Health Day, celebrated each year in April, is focused on food safety. Increase your understanding and awareness by following the tips below.

Keep clean

  • Wash hands, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, before cooking and when switching tasks, such as cutting raw meat to cutting raw vegetables.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with cool running water and a soft brush before cutting, slicing or shredding.

Separate raw and cooked

  • Have a set of two cutting boards, one for raw meat and one for fruits, vegetable and bread.
  • When shopping and storing, keep meats separated from other foods and store at the bottom of the fridge or freezer to avoid juices from cross-contaminating other foods.

Cook thoroughly

  • Defrost foods using a microwave, refrigerator overnight, or submerging in cold water, making sure to change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
  • Invest in a food thermometer and know the safest temperature for each food. Check out the cooking temperature chart here.


  • Don’t let food cool down or wait until after dinner before packing up leftovers. Instead place leftovers in shallow, individual containers and place in the refrigerator or freezer right after cooking.
  • Use refrigerated raw meat within 1-2 days
  • Most leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days. This includes packages of lunchmeat that has been opened.

For more information on food safety, see what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about food safety.

While food safety is important for all individuals, it is especially important for people undergoing cancer treatment, which can weaken the body’s immune system. If you have been told you are neutropenic or your white blood cell count is low, follow these additional tips:

  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid raw sprouts including alfalfa, broccoli and radish sprouts.
  • Avoid deli counter items and choose vacuum sealed and refrigerator items instead.
  • Choose only pasteurized milk products and fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Avoid soft, molded or blue-veined cheese such as blue cheese, brie and gorgonzola.
  • Avoid raw or undercooked foods. This includes raw nuts, soft-cooked eggs and rare or medium-rare meats.
  • Avoid bulk bin foods or buffet style restaurants.
  • Drink only city water, distilled water or bottled water that has been purified commercially.

Take the next step:

  • For more information about food safety during cancer treatment or for neutropenia, contact the Cancer Center registered dietitians at 1-877-907-0859.

Get more tips on safe and healthy eating:

U-M CCC dietitians NEW



Registered dietitians who are specially trained in the field of oncology nutrition provide cancer nutrition services at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. They focus on assessing the individual dietary and nutrition needs of each patient and providing practical, scientifically sound assistance.


The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.