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January 8, 2000

Foodborne Illness Poses Serious Health Risks to Fetus - Some common sense tips for expectant mothers

Washington, DC (SafetyAlerts) - Expectant mothers and those preparing food for them should be especially diligent when following safe food handling recommendations. Any illness a pregnant woman contracts contracts can affect her unborn child whose immune system is too immature to fight back.

Some foodborne bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes can cause a miscarriage, and also, illness in newborns. Listeria has been found in unpasteurized milk, imported soft cheese, hot dogs, lunch meats and spread. To control listeria, refrigerate any food marked refrigerate. Don’t buy or use foods that are past their use-by dates. Don’t keep sealed, unopened lunch meats or spreads more than two weeks after you buy them and use or discard open packages.

The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) offers the following guidelines to help protect expectant mothers and their unborn children.

Food Safety for Expectant Mothers:

  • NEVER eat raw meat, such as steak tartare (a raw hamburger dish), poultry or seafood especially raw oysters and clams).
  • DON’T EAT raw or undercooked eggs and any food containing them such as Caesar salad, mousse, some custards, homemade ice cream and homemade mayonnaise.
  • DON’T DRINK raw or unpasteurized milk or foods made from raw milk.
  • DON’T EAT soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue and Mexican style soft white types as Queso Blanco and Queso Fresco.
  • AVOID food from deli counters and thoroughly reheat lunch meats and hot dogs.
  • Make sure food is thoroughly cooked.
    Before eating stuffing cooked inside whole poultry, be sure it has reached 165E F.

Cook Thoroughly!

Use a thermometer to be sure foods reach 160E F to destroy any bacteria present. Whole poultry should reach 180E F; breasts, 170E F. Eggs should be cooked solid, both yolk and white.

Safe Handling and Storage

  • SHOPPING. Don’t buy cans or glass jars with dents, cracks or bulging lids. This can be a sign the food contains harmful microorganisms.
  • COLD STORAGE. Choose perishable foods last before checkout at the grocery. Go straight home and refrigerate or freeze the food immediately. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator (40E F) and freezer (0E F) keep food at safe temperatures. Store canned goods in a cool, dry place for use within a year. Never put them above the stove, under the sink or in a garage or damp basement.
  • THAWING. Don’t thaw food on the counter! Bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature. Defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave just before cooking.
  • FOOD PREPARATION. Keep work areas clean. Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards in warm, 
    soapy water before and after preparing food or handling raw meat or poultry. Both wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach per quart of water.
  • SERVING & HANDLING FOOD. NEVER leave food out at room temperature more than 2 hours. Divide food into shallow containers and promptly refrigerate it. For buffets, keep cold food cold and hot food hot, and everything clean.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-435-4555 

Selected Recent Recalls

Health Professional:

Did you know?
During 2000 there were over
1050 products recalled in the United
States for safety reasons!

How many did you hear about?

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