Joondalup Health Campus
Part of Ramsay Health Care

Bringing in food for patients

Bringing in food from home to a hospital patient can be a nice idea and a great way to show you care about a loved one. Whether it is a culturally specific food or a favourite family meal, bringing in food can help a patient feel more at home and assist with meeting their meal preferences. However, if you do decide to bring in food to a patient in hospital, it is important to consider a few things first to make sure the food doesn’t make them sick.

Often when we are unwell or are in hospital, our immune systems are weaker. This means that it is easier for harmful bacteria to invade our bodies and make us sick. Food poisoning may occur if patients eat food that is unsafe. The symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and fever. If vomiting and/or diarrhoea is severe it can lead to dehydration. In some people food poisoning can be life threatening.

It is important the food that is brought in for patients has been prepared, transported, stored and reheated safely to prevent food poisoning.

Patients may often have special dietary requirements or restrictions while in hospital. It is important that the food being brought in is suitable and meets any restrictions. For this reason, please check with the ward nurse/Dietitian/Speech Pathologist prior to providing food or drinks to patients.

Please never offer or share food with other patients.

High risk foods

Some foods pose a higher risk of food poisoning and therefore extra care
should be taken to ensure these foods are safe to eat. These foods include:

Food type


Ways to make food safer

Retailed pre-cooked

Polony, ham, salami and
other processed meats

Avoid all.

Cold, smoked, raw
and undercooked
meat, poultry,
fish or seafood

Rare or raw meat, sushi,
smoked meats/fi sh.
Cold cooked chicken

Avoid all.

Pre-prepared or
stored salads

Coleslaw, fruit salad

Always wash salad
ingredients thoroughly, and
prepare as close to serving as
Avoid leftover salads.

Ready-to-eat salads


Avoid all.

Raw or undercooked

Home-made mayonnaise,
mousse, eggnog, egg fl ip,
meringue, or hollandaise

Avoid all foods with raw egg.
Ensure all eggs used have a
firm white & yolk (that is,
thoroughly cooked).

Unpasteurised dairy

Unpasteurised milk
(including goats milk),
cheese or yoghurt

Avoid all.

Soft cheeses

Brie, camembert, fetta,
ricotta, gorgonzola, roquefort

Serve hard cheeses (eg.
Cheddar) or processed cream
cheese or cheese spreads.
Avoid all soft cheeses.
Avoid blue vein cheese &
cheeses containing dried
fruit, herbs and spices.

Soft serve ice-cream


Avoid all.

Pate or fish pate


Avoid all.

Tofu Firm and soft varieties of tofu


Use within 24 hours
of opening and cut
into 1 inch pieces prior to


Pizza, stir fry, pastas,
casseroles, roasts, etc

Reheat safely and serve
within 24 hrs of cooking (see
recommendations below).


Precautions when preparing food

Safe food preparation is always important, but when preparing food for patients with weakened immune systems, it is essential that food is made safely to reduce the risk of food poisoning. Below are some important points to remember when preparing food.

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water and dry thoroughly before handling food
  • Cook food properly – ensure meat has been completely cooked through
  • Keep hot food steaming hot and cold food refrigerated
  • Separate raw and cooked/ready to eat food
  • Keep cooking utensils and the kitchen clean
  • Don’t prepare food if you are sick yourself.

Transporting food

When transporting food to the hospital, it should be kept at the correct temperature to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria growth. This means:

  • Keeping cold food cooler than 5°C (refrigerator temperature).
  • Keeping hot food hotter than 70°C.

Cold food

  • Put cold food in an insulated cooler bag.
  • Pack food with an ice pack.
  • Don’t pack cold and hot food together.

Hot food

  • It is difficult to keep hot food hot when travelling.
  • If food has cooled it must be reheated. Talk to a nurse about microwave facilities.
  • Liquids can be transported in an insulated jug or thermos.

Reheating food

When reheating food, it is important to make sure the entire meal is reheated to a safe temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present. It is recommended that food should be reheated to at least 75°C (steaming hot) to minimise the risk of food poisoning. Food should then be left to stand for 2-3 minutes to allow the heat to transfer evenly throughout the food.

When reheating frozen foods, ensure they are completely defrosted prior to reheating. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave (not at room temperature). For commercially prepared food, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for heating. Do not reheat hospital meals.

Storage of food

In order to reduce the risk of food poisoning, food brought into the hospital needs to be stored correctly. Any perishable food that is not eaten immediately needs to be stored (covered) in a refrigerator. This includes:

  • All ‘high risk’ foods mentioned above
  • Custard or cream filled cakes
  • Milk and milk products
  • Cooked meats
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Cooked meals.

Leaving perishable foods, such as those mentioned above, at room temperature for too long may lead to bacteria growth and possible food poisoning.

You may store small amounts of food in the ward fridges. Ask your nurse where these are located. Label the food with the patient’s name as well as the date it was prepared plus the date it was put in the fridge to ensure it is not stored for too long. All potentially unsafe food that is stored in the fridge and not consumed within 24 hours will be disposed of.

Wrapped non-perishable foods such as biscuits, chocolates, crackers and lollies can all be stored at room temperature. For packaged commercially prepared food always check the “use by” or “best before” date on the packet.

Checklist before giving food to a patient

  • Have you checked with the nursing staff to ensure the patient is not on any diet restrictions or special requirements?
  • Has the food been prepared safely?
  • Has the food been stored safely?
  • Has the food been transported safely?
  • Has the food been reheated safely? (if required)

Do not supply patients with alcohol without permission from their doctor.

Remember: Joondalup Health Campus cannot accept responsibility for food prepared externally that is given to patients by relatives and visitors.