During pregnancy, hormonal changes suppress a woman’s immune system and can make her more susceptible to infections. Pregnant women are routinely warned about Listeriosis, an infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria). Listeria occurs naturally in the environment; however, some foods do carry a greater risk of contamination. While infection is uncommon, if this occurs during pregnancy, there is a high risk that it will be transmitted to your unborn child, which can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, still birth or premature birth.
You can reduce your risk of contracting this infection during pregnancy by taking simple food hygiene steps at home, being careful about what you eat when eating out and avoiding certain foods at higher risk of Listeria contamination.
Higher Risk Foods
✅ Soft cheeses, such as brie, blue, feta, camembert and ricotta (may be safe if cooked and served hot).
✅ Processed, ready-to-eat deli meats, chicken and poultry.
✅ Chilled seafood and cold-smoked salmon.
✅ Raw seafood (e.g. sushi, oysters, tuna).
✅ Pâté and meat spreads.
✅ Pre-cut fruit and salads.
✅ Seed sprouts.
✅ Unpasteurised juices and milk.
✅ Soft serve ice-cream, and drinks made with it such as thickshakes.
Other Higher Risk Foods to Avoid Include
× Raw or partially cooked eggs, including freshly made mayonnaise dressings (increased risk of
× Raw or undercooked meat (increased risk of toxoplasmosis).
Good Food Hygiene
✅ While pregnant women should be careful about what they eat during pregnancy, they also need to
✅ Maintain a healthy diet. By understanding the level of risk that different foods pose, women can still
✅ Maintain a varied and nutritious diet by practicing good food hygiene.
✅ Keep raw meat covered and separate from cooked food.
✅ Always store raw meat below other foods in the refrigerator to prevent it dripping on other food.
✅ Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling raw food to avoid cross-contamination.
✅ Thoroughly cook all raw food from animal origin.
✅ Keep hot food hot (above 60°C) and cold food cold (at or below 5°C).
✅ Don’t let cooked foods cool down on the bench. Place in the refrigerator to cool more quickly.
✅ Eat leftovers within one day of cooking and thoroughly reheat food until steaming hot.
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