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Food safety guidance during neutropenia

Read our guide below about to help you eat well and safely store food during chemotherapy or stem cell transplant treatment.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

You may be at a higher risk of infection due to your white cell count being low. It’s important to be careful what foods you eat to avoid getting a food related infection.

Some haematology units may recommend following a neutropenic diet. This means avoiding foods like:

  • raw unpeeled fruit and vegetables
  • dried fruit
  • fresh nuts
  • uncooked herbs and spices.

But there’s little evidence to suggest that this reduces the risk of infection.

At Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, we don’t recommend this stricter diet beacuse it may help you to maintain your nutrition during treatment.

Choosing and storing foods during your stay in hospital

All hot and cold food options on the hospital menu are suitable choices. You can choose two hot meals per day if you prefer.

We recommend that you:

  • eat fresh foods, for example, yoghurts and pre-packed fruit salad pots within 24 hours of opening them
  • drink bottled supplements within 4 hours of opening, or refrigerated up to 24 hours then thrown away
  • drink powdered supplements prepared on the ward within 4 hours and throw away anything you don’t drink
  • keep dried foods, for example, nuts, crackers and biscuits in an airtight container
  • re-heat any ready meals brought in by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure they’re piping hot befor you eat them
  • avoid takeaways apart from fish and chips and well-cooked pizza.

Not all foods brought into the ward from outside the hospital will be suitable. Ask the ward staff for advice.

See also our detailed information about food safety for people having chemotherapy

Reducing associated healthcare infections

Find out how you can help to reduce healthcare associated infections when visiting hospital

About our patient information

This patient advice is intended as general information only. We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it is subject to change.

Always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.