Pregnancy and food safety

Follow these food safety tips to prevent a foodborne illness when pregnant.

A person putting their hands on their pregnant stomach.
Pexels/Shvets Production.

Due to their weakened immune systems, pregnant people are particularly vulnerable to a foodborne illness. There are many harmful pathogens that can cause foodborne illness, and one pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes is a specific threat. Listeria can be found in some contaminated foods that can harm both the pregnant parent and unborn baby.

According to the CDC, pregnant people are ten times more likely to be infected with Listeria, called Listeriosis compared to non-pregnant, healthy adults. Even if there are not displayed symptoms of illness, there is still a risk that a Listeria infection can still pass to an unborn child. Listeriosis may lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or a serious infection of the newborn.

Foods such as raw or undercooked eggs, meats, poultry, and fish, unpasteurized milk, and soft cheeses are a few common sources for Listeria. Follow these tips to avoid foodborne illness while pregnant:

  • Avoid cheeses such as feta, Brie, queso fresco, queso blanco and other cheeses that are not pasteurized. The CDC reports that soft cheeses produced using unpasteurized milk, also known as raw milk, are thought to have a 50–160 times higher risk of spreading Listeria than those produced using pasteurized milk. Pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads such as cream cheese and cottage cheese are safe.
  • Before consuming hot dogs, lunch meats or deli meats, heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot.
  • Cook meats, poultry, seafood and eggs to their minimum internal temperature.
  • Avoid raw sprouts. Rinsing raw sprouts does not remove harmful bacteria. Thoroughly cook raw sprouts to destroy harmful bacteria before consuming.
  • Avoid cold-smoked fish unless it is canned, shelf-stable or in a cooked dish.
  • Store all perishable foods at 40 degrees or below within two hours of procuring them, and consume or discard within four days.

For more information on food safety during pregnancy or infancy, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food = Healthy Babies website for resources and articles.

For more information on keeping your family's food safe, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food & Water website.

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