Preparing breakfast in bed or a family brunch are Mother’s Day traditions. But if your plans include feeding an expectant mom, keep in mind that food safety is even more important than usual. During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system can be more compromised than usual, putting her and her unborn baby at higher risk for foodborne illness. Here’s a list of foods or food groups expectant moms should learn more about before consuming:

  • Seafood: Raw seafood, such as sushi, oysters and ceviche can contain bacteria or parasites that can make pregnant women sick and harm their unborn baby. Most seafood dishes are safe when cooked to 145 °F. However, avoid seafood high in mercury such as swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. Also stay away from smoked fish, refrigerated smoked seafood salads, and local fresh-water fish. Canned foods, like tuna, are safe as they are produced to be shelf-stable.
  • Unpasteurized Products: Unpasteurized milk, juice, cheese (think brie, feta camembert, and queso fresco/blanco) should not be consumed to avoid getting a variety of foodborne illnesses from listeria to tuberculosis.
  • Undercooked Meats and Chicken: All meat and poultry should be thoroughly cooked before eating. A food thermometer should always be used to make sure recipes are cooked to the correct internal temperature. Temperatures should reach at least 145 degrees F for whole cuts, 160 degrees F for ground meats, and 165 F for chicken breasts. Freezing meat for several days at sub-zero (0 °F) greatly reduce chance of infection. Avoid meat spreads, pates, stuffing and ready-to-eat meats (like cold cuts and hot dogs). Also, remember to wash cutting boards, dishes, counters, utensils and hands that have been exposed to raw meat – especially before touching fruits and vegetables that will be consumed raw.  
  • Raw eggs: Foods that may contain raw eggs should be avoided. Only consume eggs that have been cooked until the yolks are firm to ensure bacteria is eliminated. For casseroles, make sure dish is cooked to a temperature of 160 °F. Other foods potentially containing raw eggs such as homemade dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, raw batters, and mousses should also be avoided. Store-bought versions of these foods are typically safe, just check the label.
  • Fruits and Veggies: Fruits and veggies are great sources of vitamins and minerals, just make sure to wash them (scrub them, don’t use soap) thoroughly first and toss out any bruised ones. Avoid raw sprouts, as these they are almost impossible to completely sterilize unless cooked.
  • Leftovers: Doggie bags and pot luck items that are out for too long can become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Unless you can get the food put in the refrigerator in under two hours, stay away from these if possible.
  • Alcohol: While alcohol should go without saying, it’s a good reminder that consuming it during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects. Even products with low alcohol levels should be off-limits, such as wine coolers and eggnog.

If you are pregnant or are concerned with food safety for someone who is, just ask. When in doubt, it never hurts do some research, talk to the person who prepared the food or to skip the item all together. While it may seem like many foods are restricted, it will be worth it when the bundle of joy arrives healthy and safe!

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