Guidelines for bringing
occasional food to patients
Nutritious food for good health
NSW Health is committed to providing high quality,
safe, nutritious and appetising meals in all our hospitals.
Providing nutritious food is an important
part of caring for our patients.
Hospitals can provide specialised diets for religious and
dietary requirements, such as halal, kosher and vegetarian
menus, as well as for specific health needs, such as meals
for people with diabetes, food allergies or swallowing
Bringing food to your family
and friends
A well balanced menu is provided in hospital. Bringing in
food for hospital patients is not encouraged.
• Check with the dietitian, nurse,
midwife or speech pathologist first
• Always wash your hands
• Keep hot food hot and cold
food cold
• Only reheat food once
• Check food is within the use-by date
• If in doubt throw it out!
Health Care Telephone Interpreter
Service: Phone 131 450
The hospital cannot accept responsibility for storing, heating
or serving any food prepared outside its catering facilities as
it may not meet the required food standards code.
If you do bring food into hospital for a patient there are
important guidelines to follow to ensure it is safe and
Please check first with the dietitian, nurse, midwife
or speech pathologist.
The food and drink that a patient normally consumes
at home may not be safe for them while they are in
hospital. The patient may not be able to eat or drink
anything for a period of time or they may have been
placed on a special diet.
Hospital food meets stringent food safety regulations.
If you bring food into hospital, it is important to prepare,
store and transport it safely to ensure it is
free from harmful bacteria.
Keeping food safe
Preparing food
• ALWAYS wash your hands before handling food
• Keep raw foods (eg raw meat, poultry and fish) and
ready to eat food separate to avoid contamination
• Cook food thoroughly; ensure meat and poultry is
cooked until the juices run clear and there is no pink in
the centre
• Keep kitchen utensils such as knives, saucepans and
chopping boards clean
• Do not prepare food too far in advance
Where possible, the food can then be reheated in hospital.
When reheating food make sure it is completely heated to
steaming hot. Do not reheat food more than once. Ask the
nurse or midwife about reheating food at hospital.
Not all food is suitable for
hospital patients
Some types of food are more likely to carry harmful
bacteria than others. See the following handy lists of
suitable and unsuitable foods.
• Do not prepare food for hospital patients if you are unwell.
Safe foods
Keep cold food cold
Harmful bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels between
5°C and 60°C so it is essential that all hot and cold food
items are stored and transported at the correct temperature.
Cold food should be stored at 5°C or less. If a cold food
item has been left out of the fridge for two or more
hours it should be thrown away. Keep cold food in an
insulated container with an ice brick to ensure it stays cold
on the way to hospital.
• Chips, popcorn and pretzels
• Biscuits, crackers and fresh bread
• Muesli bars, lollies and chocolate
• Dried or whole washed fresh fruit
• Plain cakes or muffins (no cream or
custard filling or cream cheese icing)
• Bottled and canned drinks, tea and coffee
• Spreads (such as jam or honey)
• Canned or packaged foods.
Unsafe foods
• Homemade mayonnaise
• Raw mushrooms and sprouts
• Raw meat, seafood and eggs
• Cooked cold rice, including sushi
• Pre-sliced deli meats (such as ham)
• Salads, fruit salads and sandwiches purchased
from a shop
• Soft serve ice cream and soft serve frozen yoghurt
• Soft cheeses (camembert, ricotta, fetta and blue-vein)
• Unpasteurised dairy products (raw milk or yoghurt and
Roquefort cheese).
Storing food in hospital
Serve hot food hot
Hot foods must be cooked to 70°C or more to kill harmful
bacteria and then eaten within four hours. Cooked food
must be kept steaming hot during transport in a thermos
or insulated container. Hot food may be difficult to keep
hot during transport.
An alternative is to ensure that hot food is cooled quickly
after cooking in the home by putting it straight in the
fridge or freezer. Never leave hot food to cool on the
kitchen bench.
It is best if the patient can eat the food straight away.
If you need to store food for a short time, please ask
your nurse, midwife or speech pathologist if a fridge
is available. If food can be stored in the fridge, it must
be placed in an air tight container and marked with the
patient’s name, bed number and date. Food items must
not be kept for more than 24 hours.
Pre-packaged food items that have been opened, such
as biscuits, cakes and crackers, must also be stored in an
airtight container marked with the patient’s name.
February 2013 HSS12-007a_foodsafety
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