Making safe food choices when your immune system is weaker

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Burger and fries

Some foods can be a higher risk for people with a weakened immune system because of:

  • how the foods are produced
  • where the foods are stored
  • how long the foods are stored.

Replacing risky foods with safer alternatives will help you minimize your chances of contracting a foodborne illness.

Types of ​foodFood to avoidSafer alternatives
Deli meatsNon-dried deli meats such as bologna, roast beef and turkey breast
  • Dried and salted deli meats such as salami* and pepperoni*
  • Non-dried deli meats heated throughout to steaming hot
Dairy productsRaw or unpasteurized dairy products, including soft and semi-soft cheese such as Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheese
  • Pasteurized dairy products
  • Hard cheeses such as Colby, cheddar, Swiss and parmesan
Hot dogsHot dogs straight from the package without further heating
  • Hot dogs* thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature (the middle of the hot dog should be steaming hot or 74⁰C (165⁰F))
Pâtés and meat spreadsRefrigerated pates and meat spreads
  • Pates and meat spreads sold in cans or those that don’t need to be refrigerated until after they’re opened
Eggs and egg productsRaw or lightly cooked eggs or egg products, including salad dressings, cookie dough or cake batter, sauces and drinks such as homemade eggnog
  • Egg dishes thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature
Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
Homemade eggnog must be heated to
71⁰C (160⁰F).
SeafoodRaw oysters, clams and mussels
  • Shell fish cooked until the shell has opened
Raw seafood such as sushi
  • Seafood cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74⁰C (165⁰F)
Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Canned smoked seafood* that does not need to be refrigerated until after the can is opened
Meat and poultryRaw or undercooked meat or poultry such as steak tartare
  • Meat and poultry cooked to a safe internal temperature
Fruit juice and ciderUnpasteurized fruit juice and cider
  • Pasteurized fruit juice (avoid grapefruit juice) and cider
  • Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider brought to a rolling boil and cooled
SproutsRaw sprouts such as alfalfa, clover radish and mung beans
  • Thoroughly cooked sprouts
HoneyRaw or unpasteurized honey
  • Pasteurized honey

*Many of these foods are high in sodium, fat and calories and are not always a more nutritious choice. Speak to the dietitian on your transplant team about choosing healthy safe alternatives.

References

​Canadian Food Inspection Agency & Health Canada, 2010. Safe Food Handling for People with Weakened Immune Systems. Health Canada: Ottawa

Last updated: November 30th 2017