Mamahood & Me

Nutrition: Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning


Pregnant women should be very careful not to expose themselves to any risk of food poisoning. There really is enough to cope with just being pregnant so it's well worth taking precautions. Most cases of food poisoning will not have dramatic consequences for the mother or the developing baby and providing the mother stays well hydrated will quickly pass, however there are some unlikley cases that can have serious consequences including miscarriage, still born or born very ill. Potentially serious cases of food poisoning can be caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes & Salmonellosis and the parasite toxoplasma gondii.

General guidelines:

1. Make sure your hands are clean before handling food.

2. Always keep cooked and raw food covered and separate in the fridge

3. Marinate and thaw food in the fridge not on the side

4. Keep meat and dairy refrigerated at or below 5 degrees

5. Do not buy food with damaged packaging

6. Use separate chopping boards for raw and cooked meats & fish and a separate board for veg & fruit.

7. Keep utensils and knives thoroughly cleaned


Listeriosis is caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes which can be found in raw milk, soft-ripened cheese, deli meats and fish. Normal changes in your body during pregnancy may make you more susceptible to food poisoning. According to a December 2014 article published in  ‘Obstetrics & Gynecolgy’  women who are pregnant are 13 times more likely to become infected with listeria than when not pregnant. Symptoms for a pregnant women are mild flu like symptoms, such as fever, aches and diarrhoea. However for your unborn baby it could, in extreme cases, be fatal.

Listeria may be in the soil, water, on animals and in animal waste. The most common cause of listeriosis is eating food with listeria in it.  

Foods likely to have listeria include;

  • Unpasteurised milk and foods made with unpasteurised milk

  • Soft cheeses with mold rinds like Brie & Camembert soft blue cheeses like Roquefort

  • Preserved meats and pates from the deli counter

  • Cold salads (coleslaw, potato salad) from the deli counter

  • Unwashed fruits, vegetables and sprouted seeds    

  • Chilled ready made meals, though OK if thoroughly reheated to destroy any bacteria present.


Salmonella causes diarrhoea & vomiting and sometimes fever & headaches. You can get infected with salmonella by touching an infected animal and those most likely to carry salmonella include poultry and reptiles. Salmonella can be found in animal faeces, soil & water. You can also become infected by salmonella by eating foods that are contaminated with the bacteria. 

Foods likely to have salmonella include;

  • Raw or undercooked poultry, meat or fish – thorough cooking kills salmonella

  • Avoid bought foods containing raw eggs. The UK Food Standard Agency now advises that eating raw or lightly cooked eggs at home from lion stamped eggs is OK.

  • Unpasteurised milk and milk products

  • Foods that may have come into contact with animal feces includes mushrooms and vegetables.


This is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Once you have had toxoplasmosis you are immune and will never catch it again. About half of the population have had this infection at some point in their life, mostly unaware. Toxoplasmosis is considered harmless for a non-pregnant woman, it is potentially harmful during pregnancy, especially at first trimester. Although reasonably rare toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects or miscarriage in some women.

The parasite can be found in meat, cat faeces, the soil where cats defecate and unpasteurised goats milk. Cats are the only animals that can have infected feces. You can not catch toxoplasmosis from stroking a cat.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy to minimise food poisoning risk:

  • Raw meats including Parma ham or salami

  • Undercooked meat (no traces of pink or blood)

  • Raw fish

  • Deli counter salads and pates

  • Unpasteurised milk products

  • Soft cheeses with mold ripened rind like Camembert & Brie 

  • Soft blue cheeses like Roquefort

  • Unwashed vegetables & fruits

  • Bought sprouted seeds