Pregnancy and Food Safety

By Michael Hughes


An important reminder on the risks and what pregnant women can do to minimise them.


Adorable African American boy hugging expecting mom's belly over white background.


Food safety is an important part of life for everyone, particularly for pregnant women.  During pregnancy mums and their unborn babies are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses, which can have potentially fatal consequences due to hormones in the body which lower the immune system.  Listeria, a bacterium which causes listeriosis, can lead to foetal infection or other severe foetal complications.  It is important for both mothers and their babies that pregnant women understand the risks of foodborne illnesses and more importantly, how to minimise those risks throughout their pregnancy.



How you can manage the risks

  • Clean: Clean everything! – Including washing raw vegetables and salads before use. Wash cooking utensils, cutting boards and preparation surfaces with hot, soapy water as soon as possible before and after food preparation.
  • Separate foods: Keep raw meats and raw eggs separate from all other foods…. Starting from when items are selected from the supermarket (or butcher, etc) to storing at home to prepping when cooking. Do not store cooked foods with uncooked foods and never use the same preparation surfaces or chopping boards for raw meats and other foods.
  • Cook to the correct temperatures: Meat, seafood and other high-risk foods should be cooked to have an internal temperature of at least 75°C (167°F). Leftover foods should be re-heated to at least 75°C (167°F) before consumption.
  • Clean hands: Personal hygiene is the first step. Always wash hands correctly before handling food and consider using disposable gloves when handling raw meats.
  • Clean refrigerator and pantry: Ensure food is stored in clean containers and both the fridge and pantry are free from mould and spillages, which may be breeding grounds for bacteria.
  • Chill food after use: Leftovers and unused foods should be chilled in a fridge at the correct temperature.
  • Eating out: Always feel comfortable to ask what ingredients are provided in the meal.  If unsure, request that egg and meat and seafood meals are cooked all the way through.  Don’t be afraid to send anything back if there may be a risk.
  • Picnic food: Use ice packs and cool boxes to keep food chilled. The warmer the temperature, the faster bacteria may grow.



Foods that should be avoided during pregnancy

  • Soft and semi-soft cheeses: Including feta, brie, camembert.
  • Deli meats: Hams, salami, hot-dogs and other ready-to-eat processed foods should be avoided unless they are cooked to an internal temperature of at least 75°C (167°F).
  • Raw meats: Meats should be cooked all the way through so there is no pink meat or blood.
  • Uncooked eggs: Make sure eggs are cooked until both yolks and the whites are solid. Sorry, no runny yolks for breakfast for a while.  This also includes foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs like mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, smoothies and mousse.
  • Raw seafood: Muscles, oysters and other shellfish should all be avoided unless fully cooked.
  • Pre-prepared vegetable and salads: Vegetables and salad should be purchased fresh and thoroughly washed before cooking and eating.
  • Soft-serve ice-cream: We’re sorry about this one, truly.
  • Unpasteurised dairy: Cows, goats, sheep, makes no difference. Don’t drink any unpasteurised milk or eat any products made from them.  If concerned, check the label to make sure it is pasteurised.
  • Paté and meat spreads: Both may contain listeria and should be avoided. Canned paté however can be eaten.
  • Bean sprouts raw or lightly cooked: Any and all bean sprouts must be avoided if they are raw or only lightly cooked. These can commonly be found in salads or as garnishes.


Download here: Pregnancy and Food Safety



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