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How can I avoid food poisoning during pregnancy?

You can avoid food poisoning during pregnancy by:

  • not eating some foods – see Why should I avoid some foods during pregnancy? 
  • washing your hands before handling food
  • thoroughly washing all fruit and vegetables, including prepared salads, before eating
  • washing your hands, all surfaces and utensils after preparing raw meat
  • thoroughly cooking raw meat so there is no trace of pink or blood
  • heating ready meals until they are piping hot all the way through – this is especially important for meals containing poultry
  • keeping leftovers covered in the fridge and using them within two days
  • eating food before it has passed its "use by" date
  • cross-contamination (when harmful bacteria is spread between food, surfaces and equipment)

There are several types of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. These include:

  • salmonella 
  • campylobacter
  • listeria
  • E. coli

Salmonella

Salmonella is found in:

  • raw meat and poultry
  • unpasteurised milk 
  • raw eggs and raw egg products

Although salmonella food poisoning is unlikely to harm your baby, it can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting. 

To reduce your risk of salmonella infection:

  • avoid raw or partially cooked eggs and food that may contain them, such as homemade mayonnaise  cook eggs until the whites and yolks are solid 
  • avoid raw or partially cooked meat, especially poultry

Campylobacter

Campylobacter is found in:

  • raw and undercooked meat, especially poultry 
  • unpasteurised milk 
  • untreated water

You can reduce your risk of campylobacter infection by:

  • washing your hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food, and after handling raw food
  • not washing raw poultry
  • keeping cooked food away from raw food
  • cooking food thoroughly, especially meat and poultry, so that it’s piping hot
  • keeping all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean, such as chopping boards and dish cloths
  • not drinking untreated water from lakes, rivers or streams

Listeria

Listeria can cause an infection called listeriosis. Although the infection is rare, even a mild form of listeriosis in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in newborn babies.

Listeria can be found in unpasteurised milk and in many chilled foods, including:

  • pâté 
  • mould-ripened soft cheeses and soft blue-veined cheeses 
  • cooked sliced meats 
  • smoked salmon

You can reduce your risk of listeriosis by:

  • not eating mould-ripened soft cheeses – such as brie, camembert, chèvre (a type of goats’ cheese) and others with a similar rind 
  • not eating soft blue-veined cheeses – such as Danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort 
  • not eating pâté of any kind, including vegetable pâté  
  • not drinking unpasteurised milk – only drink pasteurised or UHT milk 
  • heating ready meals or reheated food until they’re piping hot all the way through
  • making sure your fridge is set at 5C or below and working correctly
  • not using food after its "use by" date 
  • eating food taken out of the fridge within four hours  after this time, it should be thrown away

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 30/03/2015

Next review due: 01/03/2018