Food safety

During pregnancy, immune system changes mean you can be more susceptible to infections or bacteria including those from food. Particular focus is on foods that might be contaminated with listeria. These bacteria move into the placenta and can potentially cause premature birth or miscarriage. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand recommends preparing and storing food safely, including avoiding foods that may contain listeria. 

It is important to prepare and store food safely in pregnancy.

But by avoiding all foods that carry a risk for harbouring listeria, women are consuming fewer nutrients. You don’t have to go without. For every item on the “no” list, there are a number of alternatives

  • Avoid pre-packaged cold meats. This includes deli meats and sandwich bars. Instead, choose freshly cooked seafood one to two times per week and/or canned fish up to four times a week. Choose home-cooked meat instead and make it into homemade sandwiches. 
  • Avoid ready-to-eat, pre-cooked chicken pieces (especially if cold). Instead, choose home-cooked chicken or hot take-away whole chicken or large pieces, but eat it immediately. 
  • Avoid raw and chilled seafood including oysters, sashimi or sushi, smoked salmon, ready-to-eat peeled prawns, prawn cocktails, sandwich fillings, and prawn salads. Don’t eat shark (flake) or billfish (swordfish, broadbill and marlin). Limit orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish to once per week. Instead choose other fish species, including canned salmon and tuna two to three times a week.
  • Avoid salads (fruit and vegetables) that are pre-prepared or pre-packaged or from salad bars or smorgasbords. Instead, choose freshly prepared homemade salads (with leafy greens or other salad vegetables), fresh fruit, or canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables well.
  • Avoid soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Ricotta, Feta and Blue Cheese. Instead, choose hard cheeses such as Cheddar or Tasty, cheese spreads, or plain Cottage Cheese if packaged by the manufacturer. 

Non-essential ingredients—helping you tell the difference between safe and unsafe foods in pregnancy:

In pregnancy, there are food types and amounts recommended for optimal nutrition. However, there are other foods and nutrients that we eat and drink that may influence your pregnancy, and not always in a safe manner. Videos like the one above will provide you with the most up-to-date information on caffeine, artificial sweeteners, mercury, alcohol and food safety (including Listeria), to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Evan those foods listed that are higher risk can be eaten safely if heated above 74 degrees Celsius for over two minutes.

Why am I told to avoid so many foods in pregnancy?

Sometimes it can feel like the list of foods to avoid in pregnancy is longer that what you are allowed to eat. Due to the changes in your immune system during pregnancy, you become more susceptible to food poisoning. You can read more here.

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For urgent assessment at any stage of your pregnancy, please present to your nearest emergency centre or Mater Mothers’ 24/7 Pregnancy Assessment Centre in South Brisbane.

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