Return to Index
Reducing Foodborne Risks During Pregnancy
Fish and Shellfish
- Do not fish that contain high levels of mercury, including swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish.
- Eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of fish containing low levels of mercury per week. Fish containing low levels of mercury include shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Because white tuna and tuna steak contain higher levels of mercury, women are advised to eat no more than six ounces of these fish per week.
- If you usually eat locally caught fish, check advisories about the safety of the fish. If there are no advisories, limit your intake to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week. If you eat local fish, do not eat any other fish during that week.
Ready-to-Eat Meats and Soft Cheeses
- Avoid eating hot dogs or luncheon meats that have not been reheated until steaming hot, or 160°F.
- Do not eat soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, Camembert, Roquefort, or Mexican soft cheeses, unless they are made with pasteurized milk.
- Avoid refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads.
- Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood unless it has been cooked.
- Do not consume unpasteurized milk or foods made from it , such as eggnog or Hollandaise sauce.
Undercooked Meat and Eggs
|Type of Food||Proper Cooking Temperature|
|Egg dishes||160°F (71°C)|
|Ground meat||160°F-165°F (71°C-74°C)|
|Beef (medium well)||160°F (71°C)|
|Beef (well done)||170°F (76.7°C)|
|Ham (raw)||160°F (71°C)|
|Ham (precooked)||140°F (60°C)|
Food Preparation Tips
- Before and after handling food, wash your hands with soap and hot water.
- Wash any item or area that comes in contract with raw meat, poultry, or fish.
- Separate ready-to-eat food from raw meat, poultry, or fish.
- Before eating raw fruits and veggies, rinse them and use a scrub brush to remove dirt.
- Take the outermost leaves off of lettuce and cabbage.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours after eating. Also, avoid eating cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
- Keep your refrigerator temperature below 40ºF (4ºC) and your freezer at 0ºF (-18ºC) or below. Buy a thermometer to check the temperature.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
Athearn PN, Kendall PA, Hillers VV, et al. Awareness and acceptance of current food safety recommendations during pregnancy. Matern Child Health J. 2004;8:149-162.
Cates SC, Cater-Young HL, Conley S, et al. Pregnant women and listeriosis: preferred educational messages and delivery mechanisms. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2004;36:121-127.
Foodborne illnesses: What you need to know. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm103263.htm. Updated May 27, 2013. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Handling food safely. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/handling-food-safely.aspx. Updated August 2012. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Listeria and pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/listeria.html. Updated June 2011. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Morales S, Kendall PA, Medeiros LC, et al. Healthcare providers’ attitudes toward current food safety recommendations for pregnant women. Appl Nurs Res. 2004;17:178-186.
Nutrition in pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 14, 2013. Accessed August 14, 2013.
Raw produce: selecting and serving it safely. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm114299.htm. Updated August 12, 2013. Accessed August 14, 2013.
What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm110591.htm. Updated June 24, 2013. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2013
- Update Date: 00/81/2013