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Food safety is very important during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that can weaken the immune system making the mother and baby more vulnerable to foodborne illnesses. 

Foodborne Illnesses  

  • Listeria 
    • Listeria is a bacterium that pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get than healthy adults. 
    • Symptoms include: 
      • Fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, confusion, loss of balance 
      • Pregnant women often do not have symptoms; however, it is easy to pass onto your baby 
  • Listeriosis can cause: 
    • Miscarriage, premature labor, low birthweight 
    • Late infections can cause intellectual disability, paralysis, seizures, blindness 
    • Newborns with the infection can cause blood infections and meningitis 
  • Listeria can be found in: 
    • Hot dogs, lunch meats, bologna, deli meats 
    • Soft cheese such as feta, brie, queso blanco, queso fresco 
    • Unpasteurized milk or food 
    • Refrigerated smoked seafood labeled as nova-style, lox, smoked, jerky 
  • For more information on Listeria visit, Listeria from Food Safety for Moms to Be
  • Toxoplasma 
    • Toxoplasma is a parasite that infects about 85% of pregnant women. 
    • Symptoms include: 
      • Swollen glands, fever, headache, muscle pain 
      • Symptoms are often hard to detect, therefore taking extra precaution during pregnancy can benefit you and your baby 
  • Toxoplasma can cause: 
    • Hearing loss, intellectual disability and blindness  
  • Toxoplasma can be found in: 
    • Raw and undercooked meat 
    • Contaminated surfaces such as knives, cutting boards and other food that were in contact with raw meat 
    • Unwashed fruits or vegetables 
  • If you have a cat or want more information visit toxoplasma from food safety for moms to be to learn helpful tips to ensure your safety against toxoplasma. 
  • Salmonella 
    • Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause problems during pregnancy. 
    • Symptoms include: 
      • Stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, blood in stool or dark urine 
  • Salmonellosis can cause: 
    • Bacteria in the bloodstream (bacteremia), meningitis (in mother or baby), reactive arthritis 
    • A form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome in severe cases within infected mothers 
  • Salmonellosis can be found in: 
    • Infected animals (this includes pets) 
    • Contaminated food 
    • Raw or undercooked meat, fish, or poultry 
    • Unpasteurized milk, juice, or eggs 
    • Mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, sprouts 


Foods to Avoid 

  • Seafood high in mercury 
  • Hot dogs, lunch meats, bologna, deli meats 
  • Unpasteurized milk, juice (freshly squeezed juice), cheese (feta, queso blanco/fresco, brie) 
  • Raw or undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat (sushi) 
  • Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads 
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood 
  • Unwashed fruits/vegetables 
  • Raw sprouts 


Foods to Limit 

  • Caffeine 
  • Pregnant people should not consume more than 200 mg (2 cups) of caffeine a day. There is conflicting data between high caffeine intake and miscarriages, therefore it is better to be safe and limit the amount of caffeine during pregnancy. 
  • Breastfeeding mothers should also limit their caffeine consumption as it can transfer through  breast milk.  
  • High caffeine intake can increase blood pressure, heart rate and the amount of urine produced. It can make you and your baby feel jittery, cause indigestion and trouble sleeping. 
  • Caffeine can be found in coffee, green and black tea, energy drinks, and soda, and chocolate products 
  • Visit Caffeine in Pregnancy to learn more. 
  • Fast-food, Sweets 
  •  Food high in salt, sugar and fats are not healthy for you or the baby, and can cause excessive weight gain and other complications during pregnancy. Cravings during pregnancy are understandable and normal and it’s ok to occasionally give in as long as you are eating healthy. Remember to monitor your fast-food and sweet intake. 
  • Food and beverages with excessive sugar includes: 
  • Fruit juice, sports drinks, flavored coffees, iced tea, cookies 


Steps for Food Safety 

  • Clean. Be sure to wash hands, surfaces, cutting boards, knives and utensils regularly 
  • Separate. Make sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and fish separate from other food. This includes using different cutting boards and knives when preparing the food. 
  • Cook. Ensure that your food is cooked at the right temperature. Cooking your food high enough kills the germs that can make you sick. 
  • Chill. Refrigerate your food promptly. It is recommended that you keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below. 
Center For Health Equity Transformation

Center For Health Equity Transformation

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