What you need to be careful of

Treatment for most types of blood cancers will result in lower levels of white blood cells, neutrophils, that would usually fight food poisoning bacteria.  Also, the lining of the gut acts as a barrier preventing bacteria from reaching the bloodstream, and during chemotherapy and radiotherapy this can become damaged, increasing the risk of infection

In the context of this advice, the following guidelines should always be considered when choosing and preparing food:


Freshly drawn tap water and fizzy bottled water is safe to use as a drink and in cooking.  This can also be used to make ice at home.

Milk, Cheese and Ice cream:

Milk must be pasteurised or UHT.  This applies to all kinds of cows’ milk, sheep and goats milk, and ‘milk alternatives’ such as soya milk.

Similarly, all cheese must be made with pasteurised milk.  This includes fresh and vacuum packed cheese as well as processed cheese spreads.  You should avoid blue and veined cheeses, soft mould ripened cheese like Camembert and also feta cheese.

All commercially available ice cream maintained at the appropriate temperature is fine, so long as it is not allowed to thaw and refreeze. Do not use soft scoop ice cream or ice cream from open ice cream counters.


Live yoghurt is not harmful and can be safely included in your diet.  However, it is advised to avoid yogurts and drinks containing pre and probiotics.


Honey naturally contains yeasts and spore forming bacteria.  Despite its antibacterial properties, it is recommended that honey from the following sources is avoided during your treatment; raw honey, fresh honey comb, unpasteurised honey or strained honey.  Pasteurised or filtered honey removes fine particles of dust, pollen or nectar and is fine to use. Where possible, use small jars or individual portions.

Nuts and Dried Fruit:

As long as these have undergone heat treatment, to kill off any potential bacteria, they are considered safe to use.  Therefore, roasted nuts, nut butters, cooked dried fruit in tray bakes, flapjacks, cereal bars or scones are good sources of snacks.

Smoothies and Fruit Juice:

If you purchase these make sure they have been pasteurised.  .


Generally, all food should be well cooked.  This includes all meat, poultry, fish and eggs.  Avoid any undercooked foods or anything traditionally served with uncooked ingredients as such e.g. sushi, fresh mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, dressings containing egg or any fresh pate.

Do not reheat foods where possible and always follow standard food hygiene to store any leftovers in a refrigerator, cover with cling film or foil, and use with 24 hours.  Defrost frozen food in the fridge and once defrosted use at once following cooking instructions.

The one food you MUST NOT reheat is boiled rice.  Cook, serve hot and eat immediately.

Remember good food hygiene is important for everyone and simple things like washing your hands thoroughly before and after food preparation, before eating or after visiting the bathroom should always be followed

Published date: March 2018

Review date: March 2020