Food Safety in Pregnancy


There has been a great deal of controversy about food safety in pregnancy. We have included some information you may find helpful during your pregnancy.

Pregnant women are considered a group that is high risk for food-borne illnesses. Therefore these guidelines should be carefully followed at all times: Clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Clean” means thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling food, using the restroom, or changing diapers. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be rinsed under running water. Surfaces where raw food is prepared should be cleaned carefully after use. Plastic cutting boards are safer than wood since they are not porous. 

Separate” refers to keeping raw food and cooked food from coming into contact with each other during preparation.  There should be separate work surfaces for preparing meats and fresh fruits and vegetables prior to cooking. 

Cook” All food should be cooked thoroughly.  Undercooked meat and eggs may be dangerous.

Chill”  Properly refrigerate perishable foods.  Do not leave them out of the refrigerator for over 2 hours. 

These 4 steps will control most food-borne illnesses.

Listeria causes listeriosis.  While the symptoms are flu-like, the onset of the disease may be greatly delayed, causing the pregnant woman to pass the disease onto her unborn child without ever actually feeling sick.  Listeria can survive in cold temperatures.  It is important to keep your refrigerator clean and be sure it is set at under 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Do not eat blue-veined or soft cheese unless it is pasteurized.  Do not eat Pate or smoked fish from the refrigerated section of the store.  Canned is safe to use.   Do not eat raw hot dogs or drink unpasteurized milk.  Deli meat may not have been safely handled in the store so we generally recommend not using it.

Toxoplasmosis is generally associated with cats.  It may also be found in pigs, sheep, and deer.  Raw and undercooked meats from these animals are actually a more significant source of infection than cats.  Fruits and vegetables grown in soil infected with the parasite toxoplasm is also a source.  Follow the above rules for food preparation.

Fatty fish and shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids; key for brain development. They also contain methyl mercury, which may harm the developing nervous system of your baby. Larger long-lived fish such as tuna, shark, swordfish, and tilefish are the most dangerous. FDA recommends limiting these fish to 3 oz or less a week. They also recommend keeping all fish to 12 ounces or less a week.

We also recommend against sushi because of bacteria and parasites, not mercury.

You may find additional updates at the FDA website

Capital Women's Care Rockville OBGYN
9711 Medical Center Drive, Suite 109
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 301-762-5501
Fax: (301) 309-8727
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