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How To Keep Your Kitchen Clean And Safe During Treatment

February 8th, 2017 |
Health & Fitness

by chef-ryan-callahan | Supporter: Breast Cancer    Connect


One area I have found almost every home kitchen to be lacking in is a proper approach to sanitation and cleanliness. Under normal circumstances, this would be more trivial, but when our loved one is fighting cancer, treatments often suppress their immune systems. This makes something as simple as food poisoning emergency room worthy. In this article, I am going to teach you cleanliness standards used in restaurants throughout the country, because you should treat your home with no less diligence. Here are some common kitchen mistakes that you can easily avoid.

Avoid Cross Contamination

Cross contamination is where bacteria or other contaminants migrate from one food or surface to another. Once it has occurred, it is final, and can have a dangerous impact on someone going through chemotherapy. Examples of this bacteria are salmonella, E. coli, dirt, or chemical contaminates. We want to use great care when preparing our food to make certain that none of these contaminates are present.

The best way to avoid this is to thoroughly wash and sanitize every surface after use, including every time we switch tasks. One of the most dangerous food items that we work with on a daily basis is actually chicken. Chicken naturally contains a bacteria strain called salmonella, which I am certain you have heard of, that can cause violent food poisoning and hospitalization. The most surefire way to kill this bacteria is by cooking all of your chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. But, what happens if this bacteria ends up in your salad? You do not cook the lettuce inside your salad. Therefore, if any salmonella accidentally contaminated your lettuce, more than likely, you will be spending the next 24 hours in the bathroom.

Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands is the single most important step to avoiding cross contamination. Your fingers pick up oil, residue, chemicals, and bacteria from every last item they touch. The best way to remove these is by using a mild hand soap and water making sure to scrub every crevice and underneath your fingernails. Hand sanitizer alone is not very effective. Even if you use gloves to prepare your food, you still need to wash your hands because the gloves are not perfect barriers. I know that being told to wash your hands seems like common sense, But for every person to who knows to wash their hands regularly, there is another person that does not.

Cook Food To The Proper Temperature

I, for one, love my steak cooked medium rare! But, for someone undergoing chemotherapy treatments, it is better to cook all of our foods to a well done temperature. This is one of the best ways to counteract potential bacterial food poisoning. I highly recommend you purchase a quick read kitchen thermometer. Cooking temperatures vary based on food item and are set by the USDA, as you can see below.

Food Item Cooking Temperature
Seafood, fish, shellfish, and re-heated leftovers 145° Fahrenheit
Beef, pork, veal, lamb, and other red meats 155° Fahrenheit
Chicken, turkey, and other poultry 165° Fahrenheit


Organize Your Refrigerator

In order to prevent these things from occurring, we need to organize our refrigerators in a different fashion. We want to place the least contaminating foods towards the top and the most contaminating foods at the bottom. You can identify the most and least contaminating based on its cooking temperature. For example, a carrot may be eaten raw and therefore falls into the least contaminating category. Whereas chicken breast requires the highest cooking temperature and is the most contaminating.

If you stick to keeping your kitchen and hands clean and your cooking temperatures accurate, you can help to prevent one of the easiest but most uncomfortable conditions that someone fighting cancer can go through: food poisoning. Using these tips and techniques will help you become a more successful caregiver and cancer fighter.

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Ryan Callahan is a classically trained as well as self-taught chef who acted as primary caregiver for his mother. During her chemotherapy, Chef Ryan developed the cooking techniques included in his book, Cooking for Chemo...and After!. For more information, you can visit cookingforchemo.org. You can find Chef Ryan on IHC under the username chef-ryan-callahan .

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