Bringing Food in For Patients and Residents

Information for patients, residents and visitors

This information helps to explain to Alfred Health patients, residents and visitors what is required to ensure food brought into the facility is safe. fIt has been written to help prevent food borne illness due to food poisoning.

Alfred Health does not accept responsibility for food prepared outside of Alfred Health facilities and provided to patients or residents by visitors. This includes food purchased from on-site cafes and food retailers.

Can I bring food for patients and residents?
Food can be bought into Alfred Health facilities as long as the food is safe.

There can be a risk of food poisoning when food is not properly prepared, transported or stored. This can have serious consequences for the patient or resident.

As well as being safe, food must meet the patient or resident’s requirements in regards to their cultural/religious preferences and medical/nutritional needs including food allergies.
For this reason, it is essential you please speak to the nursing staff, dietitian or treating medical team if you plan to bring food in and do not offer to share food with other patients or residents.

What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is caused by eating food that contains harmful levels of food poisoning bacteria or toxins. This can occur if food is not handled safely during preparation, cooking, storage, transport or serving.

It can be very serious for the elderly, pregnant women, people recovering from illness or for those with a suppressed immune system. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever, headache and muscle pains.

What food is safe to bring in for patients and residents?

  • Dry biscuits
  • Sweet biscuits
  • Pretzels, potato chips
  • Muesli bars
  • Washed fresh fruit or dried fruit
  • Baked products E.g. bread, bagels, muffins, plain cakes, scones
  • Lollies and chocolates
  • Soft drinks, cordial, tea bags, powdered hot chocolate

What food is potentially unsafe to bring in for patient and residents?

Any food that can spoil if not kept refrigerated is potentially unsafe.
This includes:

  • Meat & poultry either cooked or raw
  • Seafood
  • Prepared rice and pasta dishes
  • Soft cheeses, deli meats, pates
  • Salads and other items containing dairy products or creamy dressings (E.g. coleslaw, potato salad)
  • Sweet dishes and cakes which contain custard, cream or are made from uncooked eggs
  • Casseroles, soups and sauces
  • Sandwiches with potentially hazardous food fillings (E.g. meat, fish, poultry, cheese)

Safe Food Preparation and Transport Guidelines

  • Always maintain personal hygiene and wash hands prior to handling food.
  • All potentially unsafe food must be transported to the facility in an ‘esky’ or ‘chiller’ type container
  • If the food is being transported hot, you must ensure that it is kept hot until eaten.
  • Transporting hot food long distances is not recommended due to difficulty keeping it hot.

Safe Food Storage and Reheating Guidelines

  • Any food which is not going to be consumed immediately must be covered and labelled with the patient’s name, date and time the food was brought into the hospital. Food requiring refrigeration must then be refrigerated within 15 minutes of arriving onto the ward. Labels and the location of the refrigerator are available from nursing staff.
  • All potentially unsafe food that is stored in the fridge & not consumed within 24 hours will be discarded by support services staff at 9am daily. Signage regarding this process is displayed on all fridges.  Any food without the correct labelling will also be discarded. 
  • Food requiring reheating must be reheated thoroughly so that it is steaming or boiling (or in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s heating instructions) to ensure it reaches a minimum temperature of 75ºC.
  • Food that has already been reheated once must never be reheated again.

This information preapared by Alfred Health's Nursing, Nutrition and Food Services Departments, June 2014


More Information

For further information, regarding bringing food into Alfred Health facilities please speak to the Nursing staff, Dietitian or Food services co-ordinator.

For more general information on food safety, you can contact the Victorian Department of Health Food Safety Hotline on 1 300 364 352, email or visit