Holiday food safety during pregnancy

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Foodborne illness is a serious health risk for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Learn about easy food safety tips that can keep you and your unborn baby healthy this holiday season.

The holiday season is a very exciting time of year filled with parties, family gatherings and lots of food. From turkey and dressing to every type of dessert imaginable, there is never a time of year when food is more of a focus. While it is important that everyone keep food safety in mind during this season, it is especially important for pregnant women to do so. In fact, did you know that pregnant women are about 13 times more likely than the general population to get listeriosis, a rare but deadly foodborne infection, and that newborn babies suffer the most serious effects of infection in pregnancy?

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.

Keep the following food safety tips in mind as you celebrate the holidays:

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when

  • Touching raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • Preparing food
  • Before eating or drinking

Try not to 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 until it’s well done.

  • The best way to tell that food has been cooked is to use a food thermometer. For more information see’s Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures. Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot. These undercooked meats and processed meats might contain harmful bacteria.

Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.

  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and queso fresco unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized. Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria and can cause infections such as Listeriosis which can be very harmful for both you and your unborn baby.

Be aware of holiday beverages.

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  • 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.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

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Date Created: December 21, 2012 Date Modified: January 4, 2015