How can I avoid food poisoning during pregnancy?

You can avoid food poisoning during pregnancy by:

  • not eating some foods – see foods to avoid 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 2 days
  • eating food before it has passed its "use by" date
  • preventing 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

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:

  • choose British Lion Code of Practice eggs if you want to have raw or partially cooked eggs – these eggs have a red lion logo stamped on their shell and are considered safe to eat runny
  • avoid raw or partially cooked eggs that are not part of the lion code, and avoid food that may contain them, such as homemade mayonnaise – cook these 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 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 certain foods while pregnant, such as some soft cheeses and all types of pâté – see foods to avoid during pregnancy
  • 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 

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 03/04/2018
Next review due: 03/04/2021