Neutropenic Dietary Advice for Haematology Patients

26 May 2023

This BDA Policy Statement provides guidance for the provision of consistent advice on food safety and food hygiene for neutropenic haematology patients. It provides evidence/best practice guidance for haematology patients undergoing chemotherapyCAR-T treatment as well as those with more profound neutropenia undergoing stem cell/bone marrow transplantation. This is a guideline for those units who chose to continue to advise dietary restrictions during neutropenia.  It is not intended for people with neutropenia of a non- haematological cause.


After chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation, patients are at a greater risk of infection from bacteria or fungus in food. This is for the following reasons:

  • The white blood cells (neutrophils) that would usually fight food poisoning bacteria are at a low level. This is called neutropenia.
  • The gut lining which acts as a barrier between bacteria and the bloodstream is damaged by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  This makes it easier for bacteria to cross into the blood stream.

The ‘Neutropenic Diet’ has remained a controversial area across Haematology Units in the UK. The evidence for dietary restriction during immunosuppressive therapy and/ or neutropenia is limited and some institutions have removed restrictions without any corresponding increase in infection rates (8).  Due to concerns regarding inconsistent and inappropriate dietary advice during neutropenia, the Haematology Group of the British Dietetic Association established recommendations that were first published in 2011 and have been updated every 2 years.  


To standardise food safety & food hygiene advice provided to haematology patients undergoing treatment throughout the United Kingdom using evidence/best practice guidelines.


To enable dietitians working with haematology patients to confidently advise about food safety & food hygiene advice for neutropenic patients.

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