Trip to Ireland and Italy - What Can I Eat?

Updated on March 30, 2008
C.A. asks from Boston, MA
17 answers

My husband and I are going to Ireland and Italy in 2 weeks. I'll be 14 weeks pregnant when we leave. Does anyone know whether cheeses in Italy are mainly pasteurized or if they are unpasteurized? What about fresh prosciutto (not sitting out in a sandwich, but freshly cut)? And I assume salads, if well washed, will be fine? I can't wait for the trip, but just want to make sure I'm eating safely!

Thanks for any advice!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for your advice, everyone! I spoke to my midwife, and she had much of the same advice. Make sure to drink bottled water, avoid soft cheeses (unless they are cooked), avoid prosciutto, and don't worry about sips of wine here and there. I know these aren't third-world countries (I've lived in those before!), but no one has immunity to listeria, and it is the main foodbourn illness that crosses the placenta and can cause a miscarriage. For most things, I'm more laid-back, but for listeria, I don't think anyone can afford to be laid-back! Anyway, thanks for the great advice. We're so excited for this trip!

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answers from Boston on

I would advise avoiding the foods you avoid in the US. The water should be fine, tap water is actually controlled more for quality than bottled water. But you'll never go wrong with evian either. :)

I had my first daughter in the UK and I know they advised that I not eat salad unless I knew it had been washed, so that might not always be done by default? They did say washed salads were fine.

French women do eat camembert and Japanese women eat sushi while pregnant - but remember they grew up eating these foods regularly, so unless you did as well I would not eat them.

Italy is a very safe, healthy country so I wouldn't stress about food too much - just take the same precautions you would here in the US and have fun!

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answers from Boston on

pregnant in Ireland and Italy we survive eating unpasturized cheeses, salads and uncured meats. I know it sounds unbelievable. but we do. in fact, both me and my two kids have so far survived even Austria, where people eat unsterilized strudels etc.

Just live. It's risky, but it pays.

A lifetime of american fast food kills many more than real meals and slow food in Europe.

enjoy your trip!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

congrats on the pregnancy!

i went to italy in summer of 2000 & it was AMAZING! So enjoy it! I have friends who visit relatives in Ireland every year - again AMAZING! So enjoy it! LOL

no onto food - they're food is fantastic. dont' know about the whole past./unpast. cheese, but to be honest - women from those countries get pregnant, eat their food & give birth to perfectly normal & healthy babies - so not trying to belittle your concern but i'm sure whatever you eat will be fine. The food is out of this world ... oh and make sure you get gelato in italy - the best flippin' ice cream you'll ever EVER have in your life!

but you won't make it in italy i know for a fact to try & ask a waitor/tress if their salads are 'well washed' LOL

they're food is very safe - unless your allergic to some things - again people have been eating this food forever & being pregnant too. So chill, relax & enjoy your, what's sure to be fantastic, vacation! Remember - it's not like going to mexico where you can't even drink the water. =0)



answers from Boston on

Hi -
Just wanted to add my two cents since I vacationed in France & Italy during all 3 of my pregnancies. I always ate whatever I wanted (cheeses, seafood, even wine) from restaurants and supermarkets. Like another poster said, these countries are not third world and some even have a higher standard than the US (corn syrup, for instance, is banned throughout Europe). I would be a little more cautious with open air markets and street vendors. Give every purchase a good going over. Most important - remember to stay hydrated, drink tons of bottled water. Other than that, you should relax and have fun! After having the baby, who knows when you'll be able to take a trip like this again!



answers from Hartford on

Hi C.,
Having spent time in Italy myself when I was pregnant with my son,I'll say first that I doubt very many Italians get sick from eating non-pasteurized cheese. Italian cows are not raised in the same factory farm situations that most American cows are, therefore the incidence of disease is much, much lower. Also, milk from an obviously sick cow would not be used. I enjoyed eating pretty much anything and everything I would have eaten otherwise. I would guess that most Italian women probably don't change much of their diet while pregnant and they don't seem to have a problem. I would be more concerned about the airline food.Make sure to buy a bottle of water before you get on the plane, or let the flight attendant know you're expecting and that you will be needing plenty of bottled water during the flight. Flying tends to dehydrate you.
Also, as long as you use the same common sense as you would here at home, salads are fine.
Having not visited Ireland recently, I can't say much about it other than how envious I am!
Have fun!



answers from Lewiston on

I traveled in France and Italy for 10 days when i was pregnant and my doctor told me to stick with the hard cheeses (normally sliced is fine) and anything cooked. I would recommend taking some "security" foods, I call them. After a few days of eating new foods and being new surroundings, my stomach really needed something comforting and normal in the morning. Thank goodness I had some peanut butter crackers and cereal with me. I even ate McDonalds there just to have something familiar! And if you do have any morning sickness, take a lot of security foods. I ran out! But most importantly, relax and drink lots of liquids! Have fun!



answers from Boston on

I would read up on each 'problem' food and decide for yourself just how risky it is. I went to France, Wales and the UK when I was preggo with my first and I didn't eat any soft cheese, or any of the wonderful local pate. I carefully chose my one glass of wine per day.

Do I ever wish we'd gone during my second pregnancy! My midwife was really relaxed about foods, gave me some reading to do and urged me to balance risk with life-fulfilment. Her point was that we take calculated risks every day (ever driven on route 2 with those craze MA drivers?) in order to have oppurtunities. Pregnancy is a time to be a little more risk-conscious, but you need to balance baby's needs against your own, just like you will be doing for the whole life of your little one.

Is there a risk of listeria in soft cheese? Yup, but it's unlikely, and a local woman recently lost a pregnancy having conrtacted listeria drinking pasteurized, supposedly safe, milk.

I'd guess that in Italy, where food is revered far more than it is here, you'd be safe by virtue of the fact that they prefer fresher, better quality produce than we do. Eggs need to be hard-cooked only when they come from a mass-producing, high-density, industrial source. Fresh eggs from free, healthy hens have virtually no risks. (You'll find those in Ireland too!)

So, enjoy your trip. Eat well and healthy. Enjoy an occasional chianti, a locally produced proscuitto panini, and a lot of yummy fresh pasta and spring veggies.

One more piece of advice; take lots of pictures of your hand on your tummy. My son LOVES his little album of his Mama-tummy European adventures. When we visit England now, he can tell me where he went 'in you tummy, Mama'.



answers from Boston on

Your best bet is to talk to your OB and find out what they think. I'm 35 weeks and have watched everything I've eaten. I had a friend joke with me the other day saying it's amazing that pregnant people ever made it in the past. This was after I asked the waitress it my cheese was pasteurized. To me it wasn't worth the risk..


answers from Boston on

I know they like to drill things in our heads..but you have to think that there are pregnant women in these countries and they eat the food there! I recall I was told not to eat sushi (I do not eat raw fish..just the wimpy stuff) and I thought..what do pregnant women in Japan eat??!!

You will be able to find healthy foods anywhere you go, salads..maybe not so much in Ireland..look up the towns you are going to and then check the restaurants. Allot of our cheeses are read those at your local store too.

Go online and check the tourism info or post a question about the cheese on the Italy site.

Do should not be eating under cooked eggs, raw meat or drink the water from the tap (just because your body will not be use to it) But women have had babies for a very long time before other rules came into affect! Do not go over board either way.

I had to cut my salt due to blood pressure when I was pregnant and I was treated like a little kid who knew nothing when I would ask about the salt in foods 'oh, this must be your 1st baby' yes, but I would like to go as close to term as I can thanks! (my son was 6 weeks early)

And Believe me..I am soooo jealous of your trip!! oh to go to Italy and eat the real Italian food!! lol and Ireland..OMG! I did get to go to France, London & 1 day in Portofino Italy..on my honeymoon..



answers from Hartford on

Hi there! Your post caught my eye. I'm an Irish Italian American who has lived in both countries for a long period of time--you will have a wonderful time. If you need any suggestions on where to go, stay, etc. I would be more than willing to pass on any info. you might need to make for a great trip.

First off, Ireland tends to be more cautious about posting if cheeses have been pasturized or not. I would ask to be sure when buying in a shop and when at a restaurant. In Italy, there is a bit more of a shrug-the-shoulder attitude in general--so I would to be safe to stay away from the moist (squaquerone, may be buffala mozzerella) and also mouldy cheeses (gorgonzola). I believe hard cheeses like parmeggiano reggiano and may be a pecorino (parmeggiano is amazing when consumed in Italy...a must to try in Parma--where the parmeggiano cheese and prosciutto originated)might be safer routes. I am sure if you buy cheese in a cheese shop the staff can tell you if it's "pasturizato" but I wouldn't count on restaurant staff admitting it.

If I were you, I'd prefer the proscuitto on a pizza so it is heated at a high temperature to make sure no listeria is present.As you say, I would not eat it on the sandwiches (panini) in the caffes as they sit out all day. Freshly cut is questionable--the first few slices could have been sitting out. But again, I might just be extra cautious.

Enjoy your stay and even if you avoid some cheeses and cured meats, you will have so many amazing sights to see in both countries that it will make up for that lack on your palate. The west coast of Ireland is a must see (we lived in Dublin for many years) and I don't know where you're headed in Italy but I lived and researched in many regions so I'd be happy to share any info. you would need for your trip.

Buon viaggio!



answers from Boston on

My mother-in-law was 7-months pregnant when she went to Spain back in the 60's. She ate at an outdoor buffet at the hotel she was staying at. She contracted tomaine poisoning (food poisoning) and everything she ate, from olives to melons, my husband cannot eat without getting sick.

Coca-cola products are distilled and safe to drink anywhere in the world. Eat freshly prepared food that you know where it came from and when it was made. We handle foods here in the U.S. much more cautiously than overseas, so they are used to different germs than we are.

Have a fantastic trip and take tons of pictures.

D. C.


answers from Boston on

Hi C.. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I am not sure about the cheeses - probably anything cooked is okay, but remember that salads washed in water have the risks of the water. Same goes for drinks on ice. Probably those 2 countries are fine, but if you aren't sure, go for cooked foods. Have you looked into Reliv products? They are great nutrition and totally safe as pre-natals and for infants as well as everyonen else. They travel well and mix with water (bottled or otherwise) and provide excellent nutrition. Patented, researched supplements - developed by Dr. Carl Hastings, the genius behind ProSoBee and Enfamil infant formulas. The company is 20 years old, highly regarded and rated by Forbes, Fortune, Success from Home, DeMarche and the Direct Selling Association. Visit their website or contact me for the phone numbers of any number of national phone calls with testimonials by lots of people. My friend used it as a prenatal and her daughter was born 3 weeks early looking like a 2 month old - even lifted her head on her first day of life! She's healthy and off the charts. Her older brother was on a nebulizer for much of his first 2 years of life - but nothing since he's been on Reliv. No strep, no ear infections, nothing!

Most pills (like prenatal vitamins, iron) are not absorbed - it was in the papers just a month ago, about all the undigested drugs in the nation's water supply - but Reliv IS absorbed 95-99%. I can't say enough about what it has done for my family, especially my son.

You can travel easily with it and avoid a lot of worries about what's out there - and of course use it at home!

Good luck and enjoy your trip!



answers from Boston on

Hi C. - you are not traveling to third world counties. You are going to Europe. Italy and Ireland are very clean and the regulations in Europe in regads of food safety are much stricter than here. So please don't worry about what to eat and enjoy yourself.

I would be concerned if you would be traveling to the far east but not Europe.

Have a BLAST - D.



answers from Portland on

C. - What a wonderful experience you will have! My hubby took me away in December, when I was 4 months pregnant, to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever had. I was also worried about the food while away. I stayed away from milk and yogurts as it is not processed like our dairy. Fresh cheese is usually OK, but I just did not eat the 'fresh' soft cheeses. They will have plently of dishes where the cheese is melted or cooked or grilled and I did eat those in moderation. still be careful of salads as they do not have the same standards of care in preparation/washing veggies. Something to consider, stay with grilled/warmed/cooked foods that way you know any bacterias are not alive. Enjoy the trip! I am looking forward to an Italy visit myself in a few years. Drink in the sights and take lots of photos! (Oh, and shop! You won't find those styles in the States for another year or so!!!)



answers from Hartford on

I live in Italy and want to suggest you not eating any salads or raw vegies, nor eat prosciuto crudo or salami the only kind you can eat is prosciutto cotto. As it is cooked. You do find lots of cooked vegetables though in restaurants and sandwiches with cooked vegies in them. Don't eat fresh fruit unless you can peel the skin off. I guess you are toxoplasmosi negative so don't risk it.
Myself was toxoplasmosi negative, mother of three.



answers from Denver on

Hi C., Im Irish and live in he US but my parents are still in Ireland and we travel frequently overseas. I cant speak as to what to expect in Italy, but I feel in general the labeling practices of the EU are really pretty good, but thats obviously only available if you are buying groceries. If you are concerned whilst dining out, just ask. If the answer isnt satisfactory to you, dont risk it. When I was about as far along as you we traveled to England, and I was a bit of a nervous nellie eating out so much, but I just chose foods I knew would be safe. anything that is cooked through or heated is fine, so baked brie for example I believe is safe. As someone else pointed out, a local MASS woman experienced a miscarriage last year and 2 elderly men died from drinking listeria contaminated PASTEURIZED milk from a local dairy. Its all a risk really, but if you do all you can to minimize it then you are doing the best you can do. I ate loads of deli meat whilst pregnant but I always cooked it through first, or chose hot sandwiches. I recently read France has a very high instance of toxoplasmosis infection, and this is attributed mostly to eating undercooked meats, as is the cultural norm, so there really are valid risks out there and reason to be very careful.
Enjoy your holiday!

edited to add:

Hi, I just saw this news article,and thought of your post. It seems it only applies to Naples, but its worth reading.



answers from Boston on

I'm fairly certain that foods in Italy and Ireland will be safe to eat - they're hardly third-world places :)

As is the usual rule, stay clear of the soft cheeses. I wouldn't go for the prosciutto unless you can see that they are removing it from the refrigerator in order to cut it. If it's sitting at room temperature steer clear!!

Oh, and I am sure the water in both countries is safe, but stick to bottled water anyway, so as not to upset your digestive system.

Have a great trip!

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