Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria often
found in soil, ground water, and on plants. These bac-
teria can also be found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat
foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, unpas-
teurized milk, and milk products or foods made with
unpasteurized milk. When eaten, Listeria can cause an
illness called listeriosis, which can be dangerous for
pregnant women and their unborn babies. Listeriosis
can result in premature delivery, miscarriage, fetal
death, and severe illness or death of the newborn.
Symptoms of listeriosis can take a few days or even
weeks to appear and can be mild. You may not even
know you have listeriosis, which makes practicing
proper food safety even more critical. Listeriosis can
produce flu-like symptoms initially, including sudden
onset of fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and/or
upset stomach. If the infection spreads to the nervous
system, additional symptoms could include headache,
stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions.
Certain foods are associated with a higher risk of
zzlisterosis and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should not eat:
• Hot dogs, luncheon or deli meats, unless they are
reheated until steaming hot.
• Soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-
veined cheeses, and certain Mexican-style cheeses
(“queso blanco fresco”) unless they are labeled as
made with pasteurized milk.
• Refrigerated meat-based pâté or spreads.
• Refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is an ingre-
dient in a cooked dish such as a casserole.
• Raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods that contain
Toxoplasmosis is another illness that can be caused
by food. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, seri-
ous health problems, including mental retardation and
blindness, can occur in the unborn child. People can
get the parasite by eating meat (especially pork and
lamb) that is infected or by eating food contaminated
by soil that contains the parasite. It is important to
cook food thoroughly to the recommended tempera-
ture, and peel or thoroughly wash vegetables and
fruits before eating.
INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL (IFIC) FOUNDATION
10 Healthy EATING DURING PREGNANCY
Tips for Prevention of Foodborne Illness
BEING SMART ABOUT FOOD SAFETY –
Food safety is important for everyone, but there are certain foods that pose
an additional risk to pregnant women and their unborn babies. In particular,
pregnant women should be aware of their increased risk of listeriosis.