What food is safe during pregnancy?

Food safety in pregnancyKnowing why some foods are considered unsafe during pregnancy will help you decide which foods to eat.

Cheese

It’s okay to eat:

  • Hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Cheshire, Wensleydale, Edam, Gouda and Parmesan, even if these are marked unpasteurised
  • Soft, processed cheeses such as Philadelphia, Dairylea, Mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese and curd cheese

It’s best to avoid:

  • All soft, ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, even if these are marked pasteurised
  • All blue-veined cheeses such as Stilton and Danish Blue, even if these are marked pasteurised
  • Soft unpasteurised goats’ and sheep’s cheeses
  • Feta cheese

Why?

  • Risk of listeria

Milk

It’s okay to eat:

  • Pasteurised, sterilised or ultra-heat-treated (UHT) milk
  • Raw milk boiled for two minutes before use in puddings or drinks

It’s best to avoid:

  • Untreated, green top milk from cows, sheep or goats

Why?

  • Risk of brucellosis and other bacteria that may cause food poisoning
  • Risk of listeria and toxoplasmosis parasite

Eggs

It’s okay to eat:

  • Eggs cooked until both the yolk and the egg are solid
  • Commercially produced mayonnaise in jars and other products made using pasteurised eggs
  • Home-made desserts, icing and so on made using pasteurised egg

It’s best to avoid:

  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Sorbet
  • Mousse
  • Meringue
  • Home-made mayonnaise

Why?

  • Risk of salmonella

Pates

It’s okay to eat:

  • Meat pastes in jars
  • Tinned pate; pasteurised, vacuum-packed pate; UHT treated pate
  • Pasteurised pate in tubes (except liver pate)

It’s best to avoid:

  • All fresh pates (meat, fish and vegetable)
  • All liver products

Why?

  • Risk of listeria
  • Liver and liver products are rich in vitamin A and high levels of vitamin A may be harmful during pregnancy

Tea and herbal tea

It’s OK to drink tea but too much caffeine is not recommended during pregnancy. Herabl teas are probably OK but no food regulations specifically address these kind of teas so:

Stick to:

  • Herbal drinks that contain things you consume as a normal part of your diet such as orange or mint

It’s best to avoid:

  • Caffeine and especially green tea. When choosing herbal teas stear clear of unfamiliar ingredients such as cohosh, pennyroyal, and mugwort, all best avoided during pregnancy.

Why?

Caffeine inhibits iron absorption vital for your baby’s development.

Studies have also linked high levels of green tea consumption around the time of conception and during pregnancy with an increased incidents of spina bifida and anencephaly, a birth defect that results in the absence of part of the brain and skull. Herbs are drugs, often powerful ones. High doses of herbs may cause diarrhoea, vomiting and healrt palpitations.

Cooked-chilled foods

It’s okay to eat:

  • Cooked-chilled convenience meals
  • Ready-to-eat poultry which has been thoroughly reheated

It’s best to avoid:

  • Unheated cooked-chilled meals
  • Poultry foods that have been pre-cooked and then chilled and which you cannot reheat safely before eating, such as chicken drumsticks and chicken or turkey sandwiches

Why?

  • Risk of listeria

Pies and pasties

It’s okay to eat:

  • Packaged pies and pasties, date-stamped and bought from a reputable shop

It’s best to avoid:

  • Cold foods sold loose from delicatessen counters

Why?

  • Risk of listeria and of other germs that may cause food poisoning

Vegetables

It’s okay to eat:

  • Well-washed raw vegetables

It’s best to avoid

  • Unwashed vegetables. Even packaged, supermarket fruit and vegetables should be thoroughly washed under running water

Why?

  • Risk of toxoplasmosis parasite and other germs that may cause food poisoning

Salads

It’s okay to eat:

  • Salads made from fresh, well-washed ingredients
  • Dressed salads prepared immediately before eating

It’s best to avoid:

  • Ready-prepared and packaged salads straight from the bag
  • Ready-made dressed salads (such as potato salad or coleslaw)

Why?

  • Risk of listeria and toxoplasmosis parasite

Ice cream

It’s okay to eat:

  • Packaged ice cream
  • Ice lollies kept in a freezer

It’s best to avoid:

  • Soft, whipped ice cream sold from vans or kiosks

Why?

  • Risk of salmonella or other bacteria

Meat

It’s okay to eat:

  • Well-cooked poultry and meat, cooked until no meat remains pink and the juices run clear

It’s best to avoid:

  • Raw, rare or undercooked poultry and meat of any kind

Why?

  • Risk of salmonella and toxoplasmosis parasite

Fish

It’s okay to eat:

  • White fish like cod, haddock and plaice
  • Oily fish such as mackerel, herring, pilchard, sardine, trout or salmon

It’s best to avoid:

  • Swordfish, marlin and shark
  • Limit consumption of tuna to two medium-sized cans or one fresh tuna steak per week

Why?

  • Risk of high levels of mercury which can affect the baby’s developing nervous system

Shellfish

It’s okay to eat:

  • Cooked shellfish as part of a hot, well-cooked meal

It’s best to avoid:

  • Raw or undercooked shellfish such as oysters, mussels, cold prawns, crab

Why?

  • Risk of bacteria that may cause severe food poisoning

(Chart adapted from Safe Foods by Hannah Hulme Hunter and Rosemary Dodds, published by NCT Publishing in collaboration with Thorsons 1999)

Reviewed by the babyworld midwife

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