Caregiver for pancreatic cancer patient disinfects kitchen counter before preparing a meal

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has people across the country scrambling to the grocery store and stocking up on more food than usual.

But what do we need to do once those foods are home?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.”

But, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.” So, it’s important to be careful when touching anything that has been touched by others.

Food safety is particularly important for pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones at this time, says Katrina Claghorn, registered dietitian nutritionist with 25 years of experience in oncology nutrition, specializing in pancreatic cancer and gastrointestinal cancers.

“When someone is going through treatment or after surgery, their immune system is weakened,” Claghorn explained. “They are more susceptible to picking up colds and viruses, and it’s harder for them to recover from those illnesses.”

When it comes to reducing risk for COVID-19, “Anyone who has a preexisting medical condition needs to be especially careful,” Claghorn said. “If they get sick for any reason, it’s going to compromise their ability to fight other infections and illnesses – like coronavirus or the flu.”

Claghorn provided some tips to remind us how to be safe when it comes to food storage, preparation and consumption.

After Grocery Shopping

  • When bringing in fresh produce, consider cleaning and packing it right away. Use just cold water and a vegetable scrub brush to wash produce (don’t use soaps, washes or detergents).
  • Be careful when stocking up on food in large quantities. They will need to be consumed when still fresh and safe.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is clean before putting food away.
  • Rotate foods, putting newer food behind older food, to help you consume foods before they have expired.

Around the Kitchen

  • Change dishcloths and towels daily.
  • Disinfect sponges regularly by running them through the dishwasher.
  • Run the dishwasher daily.
  • Eat leftovers within a couple of days.

When Preparing Food

  • Disinfect counters and workspaces before and after food preparation.
  • Wash your hands before and after food preparation.
  • Use foods that will go bad sooner. If you have a large quantity of something, use the oldest first (but make sure it has not expired).
  • Look at expiration dates – and don’t eat anything that has passed it.
  • Wipe down cans before opening them.

When Eating

  • Wash your hands before and after eating.
  • Use clean utensils to serve food.

“This is all important practice at any time,” Claghorn said. “We often don’t pay as much attention to it when healthy, but it is essential when your health is compromised by treatment – and when trying to stay healthy at a time like this.”

Contact a Patient Central Associate
Contact PanCAN’s Patient Central for comprehensive disease information – including topics like diet and nutrition, COVID-19 and ways for patients to stay as healthy as possible. Patient Central can also provide resources to find local dietitians who can help patients address nutritional challenges.

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