When a woman becomes pregnant, she has to be more careful about what she puts into her body. The health of the baby is directly correlated with the mother’s diet. What’s more, there are many foods that carry more dangers than others to the fetus. There are three forms of food borne risks that all pregnant women should be aware of. The following is a guide to food safety for pregnant women and how to prevent Listeria, Methylmercury and Toxoplasma.

1. Listeria Monocytogenes

Listeria is a bacteria that causes listeriosis, an infection that causes fever and gastrointestinal symptoms and muscle aches. Unlike most food borne bacteria, listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures and can infect not only the placenta and amniotic fluid, but also the baby itself. What’s more is the mother doesn’t even have to be experiencing symptoms to be infected with listeria. Listeriosis being passed on to the newborn can result in; premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious health problems for the newborn.

You can prevent getting listeria by avoiding the following:

Do Not Eat or Drink Unless Important Notes
Hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats. They are reheated until steaming hot. Wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats. Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other food preparation surfaces, foods, and utensils.
Soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela They have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk. It is safe to eat hard cheeses, semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella, pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.
Refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. It is safe to eat canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads.
Refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole. Refrigerated seafood examples: smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel — often labeled “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” It is safe to eat canned fish such as salmon and tuna or shelf-stable smoked seafood.
Raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.

More tips:

  • Use all refrigerated perishable items that are precooked or ready-to-eat as soon as possible.
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure that the refrigerator always stays at 40 °F or below.

2. Methylmercury

Methylmercury is a type of metal that is considered toxic in high levels. While eating fish is a healthy choice of protein, certain amounts of mercury in fish consumed by the mother can cause harm to the unborn child’s nervous system. There are certain fish that a mother to be should avoid all together and others that are okay in moderation. Use the chart below to prevent illness.

Mercury Levels In Fish:

Highest Mercury High Mercury Lower Mercury Lowest Mercury
AVOID Eating No more than three 6-oz servings per month No more than six 6-oz servings per month Enjoy two 6-oz servings per week
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Mackerel(king)
  • Tuna(bigeye, Ahi)
  • Sea Bass (Chilean)
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Mackeral (Spanish, Gulf)
  • Tuna (canned, white albacore)
  • Tuna (Yellowfin)
  • Bass (Striped, Black)
  • Carp
  • Cod (Alaskan)
  • Croaker (White Pacific)
  • Halibut (Pacific and Atlantic)
  • Jacksmelt (Silverside)
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Perch (freshwater)
  • Sablefish
  • Skate
  • Snapper
  • Sea Trout (Weakfish)
  • Tuna (canned, chunk light)
  • Tuna (Skipjack)
  • Anchovies
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Crab (Domestic)
  • Crawfish/crayfish
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Mackeral (N Atlantic, Chub)
  • Mullet
  • Oysters
  • Perch (ocean)
  • Plaice
  • Salmon (Canned, Fresh)
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Shad (American)
  • Shrimp
  • Sole
  • Squid (Calamari)
  • Tilapia
  • Trout(freshwater)
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting

3. Toxoplasma Gondii

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii and generally results in mild symptoms to people with healthy immune systems. But for a pregnant woman it can be risky as the parasite can infect the placenta of the unborn child. Use the following tips to prevent Toxoplasmosis:

  • Use the “Safe Food Handling Tips” below.
  • If you have to clean your cat’s litter box, wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards or have someone else change the litter box.
  • When gardening or handling sand from a sandbox wear gloves and thoroughly wash hands promptly afterwards.
  • Refrain from getting a new cat while pregnant.
  • Cook meat thoroughly: Use the heat chart below for the proper temperatures.

Safe Food Handling Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning

The CDC recommends the following to prevent infection:

  • Before eating, cutting or cooking fruits and vegetables be sure to thoroughly wash them under running water and/or with a vinegar water spray.
  • When it comes to firm produce such as melons, cucumbers, winter squash use a scrub brush as you rinse.
  • Use a paper towel or clean cloth to dry your produce.
  • Uncooked meats and poultry should be sealed and kept separate from vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Wash hands, knives, countertops and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
  • Listeria can grow in foods even in the refrigerator, check the temperature of your refrigerator to make sure it is at 40 degrees or lower and the freezer at 0 degrees or lower.
  • Keep the shelves and walls of your refrigerator clean with hot soapy water and antibacterial cleaner. The best way to prevent cross contamination in the fridge is to clean all spills in the refrigerator, especially juices from hot dogs, lunch meat, raw meat and raw poultry.
  • Thoroughly cook beef, pork or poultry. Use the heat chart below for the proper temperatures.

Heat Chart: Safe Cooking Temperatures for Meat

Poultry, Stuffing, Casseroles, Reheat Leftovers 165°F, 74°C
Ground Meats: Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal; Egg Dishes 160°F, 71°C
Beef*, Pork*, Lamb*, Veal*, steaks and roasts; Seafood 145°F, 63°C
Ham, fully cooked (to reheat) 140°F, 60°C
Refrigerator Temperatures 40°F, 4°C
Freezer Temperatures 0°F, -18°C

Notes:

  • These are the safe temperatures for cooking meats and proteins when pregnant.
  • Fish is properly cooked when it flakes easily with a fork
  • * = With 3 minutes wait time