Pregnancy and food safety

Listeria and pregnancy: Foods to avoid.

During pregnancy, it is important to be aware of what you eat. You should learn what is safe and what is not safe to eat. Listeria is bacteria that can be found in some contaminated foods that can harm both you and your baby. Although Listeriosis is uncommon, pregnant women are more likely to be contaminated compared to non-pregnant, healthy adults. The percentage of cases of Listeriosis in pregnant women is about 17 percent.

What foods grow Listeria? Foods such as uncooked meats and vegetables, unpasteurized milk and processed foods are a few common sources. Usually Listeria bacterium is killed by cooking and pasteurization. There is a chance however, that contamination may occur in ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, due to contamination in the factory after cooking and before packaging.

Symptoms of Listeriosis occur two to 30 days after exposure and include flu-like symptoms, headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea and vomiting. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause a stiff neck, confusion or spasms. If you are pregnant and are infected with Listeriosis, you are at an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, infection and your newborn deceasing. Early treatment may prevent fetal infection. Not all babies whose mothers are infected will have problems related to Listeriosis. Luckily, if caught early enough, it is treated with antibiotics during the pregnancy. These antibiotics, in most cases, will prevent infection to the fetus or newborn.

Are there guidelines? Yes, you can go onto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Listeria Prevention website. Here are just a few of their guidelines:

  • Eat hard cheeses instead of soft cheeses

Pregnant women should keep away from soft cheeses such as feta, Brie and Mexican style cheeses such as queso fresco and queso blanco that do not state they are pasteurized. Hard cheeses such as cheddar and semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella are safe to eat. Pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads such as cream cheese and cottage cheese can also be safely eaten.

  • Be careful when eating hot dogs, lunch meats or deli meats to be sure they are properly reheated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Eating out at certain restaurants that provide deli meat sandwiches is not recommended for pregnant women since they do not reheat their deli meats. Restaurants, such as Subway recommend that pregnant women eat the following non-luncheon meat items such as meatball, steak, roasted chicken and tuna.

The health of you and your baby are very important. Michigan State University Extension recommends you follow the guidelines in this article. If you aren’t certain a food is safe to eat, don’t take the risk, throw it out and grab something you know is safe to help you and your baby stay healthy.

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