Eid al-Fitr and Cancer: How to Keep Foods Safe When Ramadan Ends

June 12, 2018
Janice López-Muñoz, BS, MSIH

Janice López-Muñoz, BS, MSIH, is a public affairs specialist with the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than 1 billion Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. This holy month is a time of fasting and prayer for the followers of Islam, who abstain from food and drink each day from dawn until dusk. The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr. The celebration involves large dinners, which include delicacies and large dishes of lamb, chicken, omelets, and salads.

During any gathering, it’s important to follow food safety measures so family and friends don’t get sick.share on twitter In particular, people with cancer and those caring for people with cancer should be especially careful to avoid foodborne illness.

  • Always keep your hands clean. Wash them thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and warm water, especially before and after handling raw food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is the simplest way to prevent most infections, including foodborne illness. 

  • Use separate cutting boards for fruits or vegetables and raw lamb, chicken, or other meat. This will help prevent cross-contamination between ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking and raw meat or poultry. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend washing any raw meat or poultry because it increases the risk of cross-contamination.

  • The only way to make sure your meat and poultry is safe to eat is to cook it to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. You can't see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. For that reason, the USDA recommends the following minimum safe internal temperatures, as measured by a food thermometer:

    • Beef, veal, and lamb (steaks, chops, and roasts): 145°F (63°C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes

    • Poultry (breasts, whole bird and stuffing, legs, thighs, wings, and ground poultry): 165°F (74°C)

    • Egg dishes: 160°F (71°C)

  • Any leftover food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Instead, chill leftovers promptly. Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4°C and 60°C).

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854) or email mphotline.fsis@usda.gov. You can also chat live with a USDA food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.


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