What is a food-borne disease?
A food-borne disease is any disease that comes from a food you eat. Many foods contain small amounts of micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi) that are normally harmless.
However, as your child has had a bone marrow transplant and is taking immunosuppressive medicines, such as ciclosproin, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) or steroids, these micro-organisms can be harmful, causing infections such as salmonella, listeria, e.coli, cryptosporidium and campylobacter.
How will I know if my child gets a food-borne disease?
Food-borne diseases may give your child the following:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Stomach ache
If you suspect that your child has a food-borne illness, please contact the BMT team for further advice.
Why are some foods riskier than others?
Where the food comes from, how it is processed and how it is stored and prepared all affect the risk that foods will contain micro-organisms. Uncooked animal products, including raw unpasteurised milk, cheese, meat, eggs, fish, poultry and seafood, are ‘high risk’ foods.
Which micro-organisms are harmful to children after BMT?
Some micro-organisms are more harmful than others. These include:
This is most often found in foods such as unpasteurised milk and soft, goat or ewe cheeses, especially if made with unpasteurised milk. Raw and undercooked meats and ready to eat foods such as deli meats and deli salads can also contain listeria.
E. coli O157
This is a common bacterium and is found in animals, especially cattle, and in the soil. A few types of E. coli, including the strain O157, can cause serious illness. Food sources of E. coli include raw or undercooked beef burgers and unpasteurised milk.
Salmonella bacteria are most often found in protein foods, such as unpasteurised milk, raw or undercooked poultry, soft cheeses, raw or undercooked eggs and foods made from uncooked egg.
This is a parasite found in contaminated or infected animals. It can be spread from one person to another or contaminated food. Cryptosporidium causes the infection cryptosporidiosis.
This is the most common bacterial cause of diarrhoeal illness in England and Wales, causing severe diarrhoea and abdominal pain. It is found in foods such as raw or undercooked meats, raw unpasteurised milk and milk products.
Precautions to avoid food-borne disease
While your child is taking ciclosporin, MMF or steroids, it is important that you follow these guidelines. The amount of time you need to follow these guidelines varies from child to child, but it is usually for the first three to six months after the BMT.
- Make sure all preparation surfaces are clean
- Prepare food as near to meal times as possible
- Wash hands thoroughly and dry on disposable kitchen towels or use a clean towel each day
- Use clean utensils
- Do not use wooden chopping boards or wooden utensils
- Cutlery and crockery can be washed in either a dishwasher or in hot soapy water, and dried with a clean tea towel.
- Your child no longer needs individually wrapped or portioned food
- Use all food within the ‘best before’ date and look for foods with a long ‘use by’ date
- Read all food labels and follow the storage and preparation instructions exactly
- Avoid buying dented tins
- Before opening tinned foods, wipe the top surface with a clean disposable kitchen towel
- Do not re-heat food or meals
- Do not use the microwave to defrost food - it is safer to put it in the fridge overnight
- Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature, so keep cold foods covered and refrigerated.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: July 2005
Ref: F050269 © GOSH Trust July 2005
Compiled by the Bone Marrow Transplant team in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.