Tips to Avoid Listeria While Pregnant and Beyond
When pregnant with my son, I read the What to Expects and the Your Pregnancy Week-by-Weeks. They all talked about Listeria, but I didn’t get anything out of it other than stay away from deli meats. But now, with the recent cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, it made me wonder, what exactly is Listeria? And, are all foods at risk? How can a pregnant woman avoid it? So here’s what I found:
Regarding the recent cantaloupe Listeria outbreak:
29 people have already been killed and 139 have been sickened. The tainted Colorado cantaloupes have been off store shelves for weeks now. But the symptoms of listeria can take up to two months to appear. (Read more) 2 MONTHS!
So what exactly is Listeria? According to good ole’ Web MD:
Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) bacterium. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year.1 In pregnant women, the infection can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.
Listeriosis affects mainly pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with impaired immune systems. Healthy adults and children sometimes are infected with L. monocytogenes, but they rarely become seriously ill. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy.
The symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. But infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness.
Well, that’s not very helpful. Pregnant women can feel achey and tired regardless and chalk it up to the joys of pregnancy.
How can you avoid Listeria? If you are pregnant:
Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
Do not eat soft cheeses unless the label states they are made from pasteurized milk. Common cheeses typically made with unpasteurized milk-such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style cheeses such as “queso blanco fresco”-can cause listeriosis. You can have hard cheeses and semisoft cheeses such as mozzarella along with pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.
Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. But you can eat these foods if they are canned.
Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole. Examples of refrigerated smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel. You may eat canned fish such as salmon and tuna or shelf-stable smoked seafood.
Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
Avoid eating salads made in a store, such as ham, chicken, egg, tuna, or seafood salads.
Ok, but this doesn’t help with the cantaloupe issue. Basically, the advice from pregnancy.com is to use good food hygiene.
The first step is washing your hands before preparing any food. Raw fruit and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating. Food should be well cooked; no raw or partially cooked meats and seafood should be eaten in pregnancy. Food should be served piping hot. Do not eat lukewarm food. If using the microwave ensure that the food is well heated through to the centre. Hot soapy water should used to wash all food utensils. It is particularly important to wash chopping boards and knives after preparing raw food. Proper storage of food is essential. Store all your cooked food separately from uncooked products. Make sure that the raw food cannot drip onto cooked food. If you have cooked leftovers, place them straight into the fridge once they have stopped steaming (do not let food cool on the bench). Use all left overs within 12 hours of cooking or alternatively freeze for later use. Ensure that cooled food is kept below 5 degrees Celsius. Also do not eat food that has passed its used by date.
When I started writing this blog, I had intentions of making pregnant women feel more at ease. Alas, I have failed you. Maybe we’re all a little more informed, though?