Pregnant women are at increased risk of bacterial food poisoning, for the safety of both mother and fetus, it is important to take the following steps to prevent foodborne diseases:
- Proper cooking of food to kill bacteria. Cooking until well done is safe for most meat.
- Cook eggs until they have a firm yolk and are white.
- Eat liver in moderation, contains extremely high levels of vitamin A.
- Careful washing of all fruits and vegetables to eliminate harmful bacteria.
- Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine crosses the placenta and can affect fetal heart rate.
- Avoid products containing unpasteurized milk and juice.
Salmonella species and Escherichia coli have been associated with raw vegetables, unpasteurized juices, and undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs. There is also the risk of Listeriosis (food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) bacterium) which can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, sickness, or death of the newborn. An infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in a variety of food sources and in dirty cat litter boxes, can cause hearing loss, mental retardation and blindness of the newborn.
Fish generally are not harmful, but extensive fish consumption increases exposure of a pregnant woman and their babies to the naturally occurring mercury in fish. Mercury is very toxic and can cause danger to the fetus and to the newborn infant. All fish contain trace amounts. Of mercury, however, longer-lived and larger fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, have increased mercury levels and cause the most concern for consumption by pregnant women. It is advised that pregnant women can safely eat fish thought to be low in mercury such as salmon, Pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish and cod.