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July 7, 2014

Food safety for moms-to-be

Ada —

Pregnancy is a time of change and great expectations. It also is a time when a pregnant woman is in a high-risk group for foodborne illness. This is because an expectant mother’s immune system is altered during pregnancy, so it is harder for her body to fight off certain harmful foodborne microorganisms that can affect her and/or her unborn baby.

During pregnancy, it’s especially important to keep aspects of food safety in mind, including clean, separate, cook and chill. Clean means to wash hands and surfaces often. Do not cross-contaminate foods. Be sure to cook foods to the proper internal temperature. And finally, refrigerate foods promptly.

Something else expectant moms need to keep in mind is methylmercury, a metal found in fish, including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark. If eaten by a pregnant woman, the methylmercury in these fish can be harmful to the unborn baby.

Although fish is an important part of a healthy diet, pregnant women should avoid eating certain types of fish.

Something else for expectant moms to consider is preventing listeriosis. This infection is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, which is a harmful bacterium that can be found in foods made from unpasteurized (raw) milk; refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods; and contaminated fruits and vegetables.

It is critical to promptly refrigerate foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to help prevent listeriosis. In addition, discard any food left at room temperature for more than two hours.

It is important to avoid Toxoplasma gondii. This is a parasite found in raw or undercooked meat, unwashed produce, contaminated water, soil and dirty cat-litter boxes. If ingested, it can cause toxoplasmosis and harm a woman or her baby.

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