Although rare, pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis, an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy affect the immune system, causing pregnant women to become more susceptible to foodborne illness. While serious, foodborne risks for pregnant women can be addressed by handling food properly and by avoiding certain foods.
Foods to avoid include:
- deli meats or hot dogs unless reheated to steaming hot;
- refrigerated smoked seafood and smoked fish;
- soft and semi-soft cheese if made with unpasteurized milk;
- refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads;
- raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood.
Listeria may be present in all foods. It can survive and grow slowly at refrigeration temperatures.
You cannot tell by the look, smell or taste if listeria is present in food. The best way to kill this harmful bacterium is by cooking food.
You can reduce the listeria risk by following these food safety tips:
- Consume only pasteurized milk and milk products.
- Wash knives and cutting boards with warm soapy water after handling uncooked foods to prevent contamination of cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
- Rinse vegetables and fruit under running water before eating.
- Reheat deli meats or hot dogs to steaming hot.
- Cook meat, poultry, fish and seafood to recommended temperatures; use a food thermometer.
- Follow the instructions on labels for food preparation and storage.
- Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
- Avoid storing leftover food for more than 3 to 4 days.
Listeriosis infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn.
Symptoms of listeriosis usually appear within 2 to 30 days but have been known to occur up to 90 days after eating contaminated food. Pregnant women may only experience a mild illness.
Pregnant women with questions or concerns about listeriosis are advised to consult with their health care provider.
(Source: Ontario Home Economics Association)
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