Pregnancy is a time when a great deal of advice is given, including some that is based on science, as well as some that is not. One area where pregnant women need to seek out scientific information is food safety. This will help keep her and her unborn baby healthy and reduce her risk of food-borne illness.
Food safety should be important to everyone, but as a pregnant woman it is especially important for you to learn how to protect yourself and your unborn baby from foodborne illness.
When you become pregnant, your body naturally undergoes hormonal changes, some of which also change your immune system, making you more susceptible to contracting a foodborne illness. The immune system is the body's natural reaction or response to "foreign invasion."
Everyone is susceptible to contracting a foodborne illness. However, because your immune system changes during pregnancy, and your unborn child has an under-developed immune system, you and your unborn child are at risk for illnesses associated with Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondii.
Listeria monocytogenes is a harmful bacterium found in many foods. It can lead to a disease called listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, serious sickness, or death of a newborn baby.
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in numerous food sources, as well as dirty cat litter boxes and other areas where cat feces can be found. Toxoplasmosis can cause hearing loss, mental retardation and blindness.
The good news is that you can take special effort to select and prepare foods to prevent contracting these and other foodborne diseases. This guide is written especially for you to help show you how to protect yourself and your unborn baby from contracting a foodborne illness.
Make wise food choices
Some foods are more risky for you than others. In general, the foods that are most likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses fall into two categories: Uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables and some animal products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk; soft cheeses made with raw milk; and raw or undercooked eggs, raw meat, raw poultry; luncheon meats and deli-type salads (without added preservatives) prepared on site in a deli-type establishment.
Interestingly, the risk these foods may actually pose depends on the origin or source of the food and how the food is processed, stored and prepared. If you have questions about wise food choices, be sure to consult with your doctor or health care provider. He or she can answer any specific questions or help you in your choices.
All consumers need to follow the four basic steps to food safety: Clean, separate, cook, and chill.
n Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. To ensure that your hands and surfaces are clean, be sure to wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.
Page 2 of 2 - n Separate: Don't cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when handling raw meat, poultry, seafoods and eggs. The key is to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
n Cook: Cook to safe temperatures. Foods are safely cooked when they are heated to the USDA-FDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Check the internal temperature in several places to make sure that the meat, poultry, seafood or egg product is cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures.
Cook ground beef to at least 155 degrees fahrenheit and ground poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. Color of food is not a reliable indicator of safety or doneness. Cook seafood to 145 degrees fahrenheit. Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Use only recipes in which the eggs are cooked or heated to 160 degrees fahrenheit.
Cook all raw beef, lamb, pork, and veal steaks, roasts, and chops to 145 degrees fahrenheit with a 3-minute rest time after removal from the heat source.
When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
n Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria.
Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees fahrenheit or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is consistently 40 degrees fahrenheit or below and the freezer temperature is zero degrees fahrenheit or below.