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Why avoid certain foods

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Pregnant women often call the NSW Food Authority asking why we list certain foods as ‘foods to avoid’.

Certain foods are regarded as having a higher risk of containing the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes which can be harmful to pregnant women and their baby or other bacteria such as Salmonella, which also causes food poisoning.

The common foods we advise women to avoid during pregnancy are:

  • soft and semi-soft cheeses (unless thoroughly cooked to at least 75oC and eaten soon afterwards)
  • processed meats (unless thoroughly cooked to at least 75oC and eaten soon afterwards)
  • cold cooked chicken
  • pre-prepared vegetables and salads
  • pre-cut fruit
  • pậté
  • soft-serve ice-cream
  • raw seafood.

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of becoming infected with Listeria than an average healthy adult and the outcomes for their baby can be fatal.

Hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy lower the immune system, making it harder to fight off disease and infection.

One in 10 cases of listeriosis infection in Australia occur in pregnant women and although cases in Australia are relatively rare, the consequences are dire with 1 in 5 cases of listeriosis in pregnant women proving fatal for the developing foetus.

We put the risks in context and explain the science behind the recommendations on why you should avoid certain foods.

We want you to have the right information so you can make informed, sensible choices about what you eat during pregnancy.

In addition to some foods that should be avoided in pregnancy there are certain drinks that also present a higher risk. Fermented drinks like kombucha, kvass, kefir and ginger beer can contain residual alcohol as a by-product of the fermentation process. More information is available here.

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