At one time or another in our lives, we’ve probably all experienced the very unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning. Usually within a day, you bounce back to your normal self. But for pregnant women and babies, foodborne illness can be extremely dangerous. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever, can become life-threatening. If you are infected during pregnancy, foodborne illnesses can cause premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth. And some foodborne illnesses, such as listeriosis, can infect your baby even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of food poisoning.
There are ways to protect yourself
During pregnancy, make sure that you are doing all that you can to prevent infections due to bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illnesses.
When preparing food:
- Wash your hands before and after food preparation. You should wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables under running tap water before eating, and remove surface dirt with a scrub brush, cutting away any damaged sections, which can contain bacteria.
- Remove and throw away the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables, like lettuce and spinach.
- Cut away damaged sections of fruits and vegetables.
- Wash utensils and cutting boards with hot soapy water after each use. Don’t use cutting boards made of wood. They can hold more germs than other kinds of cutting boards.
- After preparing food, clean countertops with hot soapy water.
Make sure food is separated, cooked, and chilled properly before serving:
- Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook foods to their proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles.
- Chill foods that need to be kept cool if you will be outside for long periods. Foods made with mayo, such as pasta or potato salads, need to be kept cold and out of the sun. Or try using a recipe for an olive oil-based dressing. These will keep fresher longer.
- Never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
Avoid these foods during pregnancy to prevent food poisoning:
- Do not eat raw or undercooked meat (beef, poultry, pork, and fish).
- Don’t eat raw or runny eggs or any foods made with them–this includes cake batter and raw cookie dough!
- Raw meat, fish and eggs can contain harmful germs that can give you food poisoning, like salmonella infection. Cooking them fully kills the germs, which helps keep you and your baby from getting sick.
- Avoid raw sprouts, especially alfafa sprouts.
- Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheeses. Many dairy products, like milk, eggs and cheese, are pasteurized. This means they’re heated to kill germs. Avoid unpasteurized juice, milk, or soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela. If the product label doesn’t say “pasteurized,” pick a different product. Unpasteurized dairy products can give you food poisoning, like listeriosis.
If you think you may have food poisoning, call your health care provider right away. You can read more about foods that you should avoid during pregnancy here.
This may seem like a lot of foods to avoid. But, the truth is that there are many good foods you can eat during pregnancy. Visit our website for menu ideas.