Food safety during pregnancy

Having a baby is an exciting time. However, there are a few important things to remember when eating to ensure that you and your baby are healthy.

If you are pregnant, your levels of immunity may be lower than usual and you may be more at risk of food poisoning. It's therefore important to take extra care when handling food. This includes regular and thorough hand washing and consuming only freshly prepared food. It is also important to avoid particular foods and consume others in moderation.

General food safety rules should be followed, in addition to some others that specifically apply during pregnancy. When pregnant:

  • Only consume hot food if its piping hot (e.g. avoid warm cooked chickens)
  • Only consume freshly prepared food
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly
  • Immediately refrigerate any left overs and keep for no longer than 1 day
  • Avoid salads and sliced meats that have been prepared by others
  • Avoid soft cheeses, soft serve ice cream, ready-to-eat prawns, raw seafood and pates
  • Avoid seafood with naturally high levels of mercury, such as swordfish, marlin, broadbill and shark (or consume in isolation to other seafood no more than once per fortnight).

Avoid Listeria

Pregnant women need to exercise extra vigilance in avoiding listeria. Listeria are bacteria carried in some foods that can cause a disease called listeriosis, which is a fairly uncommon form of foodborne illness in Australia. The illness causes few or no symptoms in most people, but it can be very dangerous if you are pregnant, or for your unborn child or newborn baby.

Recent research indicates that the highest risk foods are ready-to-eat foods and those stored at refrigeration temperatures for a long period, thereby enabling Listeria to grow. If you are pregnant you need to be aware of these risks and avoid particular types of food.

Resources

Advice for pregnant women from Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Healthy eating in pregnancy