During pregnancy, the immune system changes, placing women and their unborn babies at risk of contracting certain illnesses. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to foodborne illnesses.
Pregnant women can risk premature delivery or labor when infected with foodborne diseases. Foodborne illnesses such as Toxoplasma gondii and Listeria can affect the unborn baby even when the woman is not experiencing any symptoms. This is why specific guidelines of what pregnant women should eat or not eat are put in place; they include:
Cook Seafood Thoroughly
Pregnant women need to make informed choices when it comes to seafood. Despite fish being rich in high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, raw or undercooked seafood can threaten your pregnancy.
Ensure to cook all seafood dishes to 145 degrees F to kill any parasites or bacteria, including Listeria, present in the fish. Listeria infection could make you sick and potentially harm your baby. Hence, it is recommended to avoid raw sushi, raw oysters, sashimi, fresh scallops, fresh clams, and ceviche.
Avoid eating refrigerated smoked seafood unless it’s in a cooked dish that reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill any harmful germs.
Refrigerated smoked seafood like trout, cod, salmon, whitefish, mackerel, or tuna is often labeled as Nova-style, kippered, jerky, lox, and smoked. It is recommended to eat smoked seafood only if it’s shelf-stable, canned, or an ingredient in a casserole or other well-cooked dishes.
Avoid Raw Milk and other Raw Milk Products
Raw milk from any animal should be pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. Also referred to as unpasteurized milk, raw milk may contain bacteria like E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, or bacteria that cause TB.
Hence, we recommend consuming only pasteurized milk and other dairy products like soft cheese to avoid these foodborne diseases. Don’t consume cheeses like feta, brie, queso Blanco, Roquefort, queso fresco, or camembert unless the label reads “made from pasteurized milk.”
Eat hard cheeses like Swiss or Cheddar instead. Pay close attention to the farmers’ markets you shop from to ensure that the fresh and soft cheeses they sell are pasteurized.
Avoid Eating Premade Meat or Seafood Salad
We are sorry, but you will have to put that Deli chicken or tuna salad away for now. Avoid buying or eating premade chicken salad, ham salad, or seafood salad because they may contain Listeria. You will commonly find these salads in delis.
Reheat Luncheon Meats and Hot Dogs
It is also recommended to heat luncheon meats and hot dogs at 165 degrees F or steaming hot. This should be so even when the label reads ‘precooked.’
These meat items, including fermented or dry sausage, cold cuts, or any other deli-style meat or poultry, are unsafe to consume during pregnancy because they contain Listeria.
Be Choosy with Meat Spreads and Pate
Avoid eating refrigerated meat spreads and pates from a meat counter, deli, or any refrigerated section of the store because they also contain Listeria. Meat spreads and pates shouldn’t be refrigerated before opening but after opening.
Avoid Eating Raw Batter
During pregnancy, raw batter or dough can also make you sick since the flour hasn’t been treated to kill parasites and germs like E. coli. Raw eggs added to the batter also contain salmonella. To be safe, ensure the dough is thoroughly cooked or baked before consumption.
Avoid Eating Raw Sprouts
Raw or undercooked sprouts like clover, alfalfa, radish, and mung bean could also contain salmonella or E.coli. We recommend cooking sprouts thoroughly before consumption.
Cook Eggs Thoroughly
Raw or undercooked eggs contain salmonella. Hence pregnant women should cook the whites and yolks until they are firm to kill germs.
Avoid eating foods that contain raw eggs, such as raw batter, homemade Caesar salad dressing, homemade eggnog, eggs Benedict, Tiramisu, homemade hollandaise sauce, and homemade ice cream. Visit our Health section for more information and an interesting blog like this one!