Moms & Pregnancy
If you are a mom, you need to know that fresh raw eggs carry food safety risks—mainly foodborne illness (food poisoning) from Salmonella bacteria. Raw eggs or undercooked eggs are the most common source of Salmonella illness (salmonellosis) in the U.S. today! Because of this, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend eating raw eggs that are not cooked (or raw eggs that are undercooked). But it also states, "In-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking."
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Pregnancy & Food Safety
If you are pregnant, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions, "During pregnancy, your immune system is weakened, which makes it harder for your body to fight off harmful foodborne microorganisms that cause foodborne illness."
How can you safeguard the health of yourself and your baby? Here are some tips from the FDA:
- Avoid raw or undercooked fish. Raw fish (such as sushi or sashimi) or foods made with raw fish are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than foods made from cooked fish. Don't eat raw or undercooked finfish or shellfish (including oysters, clams, and mussels).
- Avoid raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, and radish). These can harbor dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.
- Avoid juice by the glass. Juices that are fresh squeezed and sold by the glass, at some juice bars, for example, may not be pasteurized or otherwise treated to ensure their safety. Warning labels are not required on these products. Pregnant women and young children should avoid all unpasteurized juices.
- Avoid raw or undercooked eggs (if they have not been pasteurized). Remember it's not just whole eggs or sunny side up eggs, but favorite dishes containing fresh eggs—like Caesar salad dressing, custards, smoothies, and some sauces. (Pasteurized Safest Choice™ eggs are safe, because they eliminate Salmonella bacteria with an all natural, warm water pasteurization process.)
- Insist on well-cooked foods. When eating out, always request that your food be cooked thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. When a hot meal is served, make sure it's piping hot and thoroughly cooked. If it's lukewarm, send it back.
Keep in mind that at this vulnerable time, there are many food safety risks. For example, pregnant women are 20 times more likely to get sick from Listeria bacteria, as compared with other healthy adults. Listeriosis (the foodborne illness) can injure mom and baby, sometimes resulting in stillbirth. Common sources are unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Examples are Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco, and queso fresco cheeses. As with eggs, one of the best safeguards is to choose pasteurized cheeses and dairy products. The FDA cautions:
- Do not eat raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
- If you're buying cheese, make sure the label says: made with pasteurized milk.
Deli-style meats, hot dogs, and smoked fish are also sources of Listeria. It's important to check dates on these products, and keep them cold, as Listeria germs grow (slowly) even under refrigeration. During pregnancy, the FDA advises avoiding deli meats and smoked fish, unless you are cooking them.
About 85% of pregnant women in the U.S. are at risk of being infected with toxoplasmosis, another foodborne illness, says the FDA. This is a parasite found in raw and undercooked meat; unwashed fruits and vegetables; water; dust; soil; dirty cat-litter boxes; and outdoor places where cat feces can be found. It can cause an illness called toxoplasmosis that can be particularly harmful to you and your unborn baby. Washing your hands and cooking food thoroughly are two of the steps you can take to protect yourself and your baby.
Mercury in fish is another food safety risk for pregnant women. The FDA recommends limiting your intake of large fish, such as swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark.
For more information about safe food choices during pregnancy, see the Checklist of Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy.
Food safety for your family
Moms, if you are concerned about food safety, there are steps you can take to keep your family safe from foodborne illness. The USDA recommends four basic steps to food safety in your household:
- CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often
- SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate!
- COOK: Cook to proper temperature
- CHILL: Refrigerate promptly