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Food Safe and Pregnant: Tips for the Holidays and Beyond

The holiday season is filled with parties, family gatherings, and lots of food. While everyone wants to keep food-safe, it is especially important for pregnant women to do so. Pregnant women are at increased risk of food poisoning. In fact, pregnant women are about ten times more likely than the general population to get sick from listeriosis, a rare but deadly foodborne infection caused by the bacteria, Listeria. And, one in seven Listeria infections occurs during pregnancy.

Food Safety Experts Hold Holiday Food Safety Twitter Chat

Why are pregnant women more likely to get food poisoning?

  • You and your growing fetus are more vulnerable to some foodborne illnesses because during pregnancy your immune system is weakened, which makes it harder for your body to fight off harmful foodborne germs.
  • Your unborn baby's immune system is not developed enough to fight off harmful foodborne germs.
  • For both mother and baby, foodborne illness can cause serious health problems—or even death.

So how can you keep you and your unborn child safe from harmful food germs like Listeria and free of complications during pregnancy and delivery—especially during the holidays?

Graphic: Don't toss your cookies. Holiday Food Safety Twitter Chat, Wednesday, December 18, 2013, 3-4pm ET

Here are some quick tips to help you make smarter food--and beverage--decisions [PDF - 3.35MB].

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when
    1. Touching raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
    2. Preparing food
    3. Before eating or drinking
  • Don’t share forks, cups, or food with young children. Wash your hands often when around children. Their saliva and urine might contain a virus that could be harmful for you and your unborn baby.
  • Cook your meat and poultry until it’s well-done: Well-cooked is well eaten. Meat and poultry can carry harmful germs like E. coli and Toxoplasma. Always cook hamburger, chicken, and other meat items until they are well-done to ensure bacteria and parasites are killed in the cooking process. And, heat cold cuts until they are steaming to avoid possible contamination.
  • Avoid raw or unpasteurized dairy: Raw or unpasteurized dairy may contain harmful bacteria. Avoid soft cheeses such as queso fresco, Brie, Camembert, feta, goat cheese, or Roquefort if they are raw or unpasteurized. Just say no to other unpasteurized or raw products, like milk or juice as well.
  • Be aware of holiday beverages. Watch out for alcohol-containing holiday punches and eggnogs. Avoid eggnog entirely unless you know it was made with pasteurized eggs and contains no alcohol.
  • Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked [PDF - 84KB] before eating: Sneaky Salmonella lurks inside eggs. Lots of foods are made with raw or undercooked eggs: Caesar dressing, homemade ice cream, cookie dough, mayonnaise, and eggnog, to name a few. To avoid contamination and possible food poisoning, always use pasteurized eggs and avoid runny yolks by cooking thoroughly.
  • To learn more about food safety and/or infections during pregnancy contact CDC-INFO at cdcinfo@cdc.gov or 1-800-CDC-INFO. Or, you may visit CDC's Pregnancy Information gateway, the FoodSafety.gov portal for pregnant women.

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