Foods to avoid eating when pregnant

Being pregnant can make meal times tricky. It's hard enough for you as a pregnant woman to remember all the do's and dont's - but this is compounded when you need to eat out. So what are you meant to look out for - and what are the main foods to avoid and why? Here's a brief list!

Listeria

A rare but potentially severe illness caused by the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

Many pre-prepared or takeaway foods are considered high risk for Listeria, this occurs due to contamination with bacteria as part of the food preparation process and the bacteria continues to grow in the fridge.

Here are some of the most common foods to avoid when you are pregnant to avoid listeria (this list is not exhaustive):

  • pate
  • cold ready-to-eat chicken
  • manufactured ready-to-eat meats (including polony, ham and salami)
  • soft cheeses (including brie, camembert, fetta, ricotta)
  • pre-packed, pre-prepared or self-serve fruit or vegetable salads (this includes coleslaw, potato and other salads)
  • freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices
  • ready-to-eat cold, smoked or raw seafood, including smoked salmon, oysters, sashimi and cooked prawns
  • sushi
  • soft serve ice cream and thick shakes (you might want to check other iced drinks and milk shakes too)
  • tofu (both soft and hard types) and tempeh
  • unpasteurised milk and unpasteurised milk products
  • raw sprouts (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean). Bacteria can get into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown. Once this occurs, these bacteria are nearly impossible to wash out. Sprouts grown in the home are also risky if eaten raw. Many outbreaks have been linked to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on the seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting - even under clean conditions.

 

Methylmercury

Is a metal that can be found in certain fish which can be harmful to your unborn baby if you eat them. Mercury can reach the fish both through natural occurence as well as industrial pollution, which accumulates in our oceans. Bacteria in the water transforms the mercury chemically into methylmercury, which can be toxic.

Fish absorb methylmercury as they feed on other fish, however, larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of methylmercury because they've had more time to accumulate it. The following large fish pose the greatest risk to pregnant women who eat them regularly: 

  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • Shark

It's okay to eat other cooked fish/seafood as long as you select a variety of other kinds while you're pregnant. You can eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are:

  • shrimp
  • canned light tuna 
  • salmon 
  • pollock, and
  • catfish. 

Salmonella

A type of food poisoning caused by the salmonella bacterium found in the following foods TO AVOID (the following list is not exhaustive):

  • cake batter
  • raw cookie dough
  • raw eggs
  • raw or undercooked sprouts
  • undercooked eggs (cook until yolk is firm)
  • undercooked poultry and stuffing

Toxoplasmosis

Is another infection that can affect unborn babies. To reduce the risk thoroughly cook all meat, and ensure that salad and vegetables are thoroughly washed.

(Pregnant women should also avoid contact with cat faeces and should wear disposable gloves if handling cat litter. Hands should be washed after gardening or handling pets).

What are the symptoms of foodborne illness?

Symptoms vary, but in general, a person might get sick to their stomach, vomit, or have diarrhea. Sometimes foodborne illness is confused with the flu because the symptoms can be flu like with a fever, headache, and body aches.

What should I do if I suspect a foodborne illness?

If you are unwell contact your doctor, hospital or healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 (24 hours a day, seven days a week) as soon as possible.

 

Please note that this list is not exhaustive - but designed to give you a quick guide of foods to avoid when you are pregnant.

Sources:

Foods to avoid during pregnancy: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/risk/pregnant/chklist_pregnancy.html Listeria: http://www.public.health.wa.gov.au/2/402/2/listeria_infect.pm#A Methylmercury: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm083324.htm While you are pregnant - what is foodborne illness?: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm083316.htm