The neutropenic diet reviewed: Moving toward a safe food handling approach

Nicole Fox, Alison G. Freifeld

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


For decades, the concept of a neutropenic diet has implied a strict limitation of foods allowed for consumption, as a presumptive means of reducing the risk of infection in cancer patients. The rationale was to limit the introduction of potentially harmful bacteria into the gastrointestinal tract by the restriction of certain foods that might harbor those organisms. However, this concept has not been substantiated with direct proof, and no universal definition of the neutropenic diet exists. Exactly which foods are restricted varies greatly by institution, but most notable is the restriction of fresh fruits and vegetables. Research evaluating potential benefits of a neutropenic diet is very limited, but the diet is still prescribed in many institutions with the hope that it will prevent foodborne infection and/or bacteremia in neutropenic patients. Review of the pathophysiology of foodborne illness and pertinent studies about the neutropenic diet lead to the conclusion that there is no clear benefit from the longstanding dietary restrictions that may be imposed during neutropenia. Instead, we propose adoption of standard safe food handling methods to allow for a more liberalized diet in the neutropenic patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalONCOLOGY (United States)
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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