What NOT to Eat When Pregnant

Updated on August 31, 2010
J.P. asks from Yukon, OK
22 answers

Hey momma's. I am pregnant with my 2nd baby and just for a refresher I visited a baby website to re-familiarize myself with the list of what not to eat when pregnant. The list I came across said to avoid deli meats b/c they could be contaminated with the listeria bacteria. I had never ever heard that when I was pregnant with my daughter. Has anyone else ever heard this before. I just ate a sub sandwich today from Jersey Mike's and now I'm a little worried. I feel so stupid for worrying about this! Does anyone know anything about this and am I just being over paranoid?

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I ate unheated deli meat my entire pregnancy and my daughter is perfectly healthy! Sometimes I think that if it has happened to someone, or has the potential to happen, then everyone covers their butt and tells you not to eat it. Deli meat was a craving for me and I will also eat it with my next child, so I say not to worry. :)



answers from Tuscaloosa on

Actually, contrary to what someone else wrote, the fresh meats are more likely to be contaminated than the pre-packaged ones. The contamination is spread by the cutting machines. I was told it was OK to eat minimal pre-packaged stuff (due to the nitrates) but try to avoid fresh-cut meats. I wouldn't worry about what you ate though. I don't think chances are that big of catching listeria, but now that you know you might want to avoid it.

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answers from Denver on

If it's listeria you want to avoid, don't eat cheese. Or peanut butter. Or anything, really. http://www.myfoodpoisoninglawyer.com/category/listeria-ou...

The sad fact is, ALL foods are exposed to viruses: Spinach to eColi, canteloupes to salmonella, unpastuerized apple juice to eColi, cheese to listeria, eggs to salmonella.

For lunch meats: I personally ate them, all the time. I avoided ones with nitrites/nitrates (Boars Head is a good brand) because I know for certain nitrites are bad. I don't know if either the tomato, lettuce, sandwich meat or cheese on the sandwich will make me sick however, so I gambled with all of it.

For the long winded Dr answer, which was very interesting in pointing out that Fifth disease is more fatal to fetuses than Lysteria, here you go:

We wish to thank Dr Khatter and Ms Taylor and Dr Galanis for their interest in our Motherisk Update ‘Foodborne illnesses in pregnancy” in CFP in April 2010.

We believe that some of their recommendations are not evidence-based. We concur that it is important for pregnant women to be very careful in regards to consuming foods. However, despite their impressions, we did not make contradictory statements, as will be clearly shown here.

Despite the increased relative risk for pregnant women contracting Listeria, the absolute risk is extremely low and avoiding deli meats altogether does appear to be rather punitive. A risk assessment of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods conducted by the FDA/Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and USDA/Food Safety and Inspection Service estimated the risk of developing listeriosis to be 1.2 x 10-5 (95% CI: 3.2 x 10-6 to 1.4 x 10-5) and 2.0 x 10-7 (95% CI: 4.8 x 10-11 to 5.3 x 10-6) per serving of deli meat and soft cheese, respectively, in the perinatal population. Taking the reciprocal of these values, the model estimates one case of listeriosis in 83000 servings of deli meat or 5 million servings of soft cheese consumed by a pregnant woman, which is a minimal risk (1).

To put this in perspective, for a woman who is less than 20 weeks of gestation, a conservative estimate of the risk of fetal loss following contact with an individual in the contagious stage of fifth disease (parvovirus B19 infection) is 1.8 x 10-3. This calculation uses the lower estimates of the proportion of the population that is not immune (35%), chance of maternal infection (20% in a daycare/school setting), and rate of vertical transmission (17%), and an estimated 14.8% rate of spontaneous loss of fetuses affected by parvovirus B19 before 20 weeks of gestation. For a woman who acquires the infection after 20 weeks of gestation, the estimated risk of fetal loss is lower (2.7 x 10-4), but still one order of magnitude higher than the risk of developing listeriosis following consumption of a single serving of deli meat. However, most government agencies do not recommend that pregnant women should routinely be excluded from a workplace where an outbreak of fifth disease is occurring (2).

We strongly believe that women should be informed of the nature and magnitude of the risks associated with the consumption of deli meats and soft cheeses. The decision to consume or avoid these foods should be made by her, based on this information, thus allowing her to make an informed decision. Subsequently, if she chooses not to avoid them, she should be advised on how she can minimize her exposure (and thus, her risk). Factors that determine exposure include amount and frequency of consumption, duration of refrigerated storage before consumption, and temperature at which the food is stored. We acknowledge that L. monocytogenes – unlike most bacterial pathogens – is able to grow at refrigeration temperatures (i.e., 4°C). However, growth at 4° is slow and limiting the duration of storage will limit bacterial growth.3

Therefore, she should be advised to: (1) limit the amount and frequency of consumption; (2) limit the duration of storage by choosing the freshest foods (i.e., those dated as close to the manufacture/packaging date as possible) and consuming them in a timely manner; (3) ensure that foods are kept at the correct temperature (less than 4°C) at all times including transport from the retail outlet to the home.

References 1.http://www.fda.gov/Food/ScienceResearch/ResearchAreas/Ris...) 2.(http://www.sogc.org/guidelines/public/119E-CPG-September2...; http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/respiratory/B19&p...; Gillespie SM, et al. JAMA. 1990 Apr 18;263(15):2061-5; ACOG Practice Bulletin #20) 3.(http://fsrio.nal.usda.gov/document_fsheet.php?product_id=156; http://fsrio.nal.usda.gov/document_fsheet.php?product_id=221

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Look at the post from yesterday about the turkey sandwich! I think it got over 60 responses! Seriously, every year or two it seems the "scientific" or medical community comes up with something else pregnant women shouldn't eat or be exposed to. It's hard to imagine the human race has survived and proliferated so long! YES, you can get listeria from deli meat. It almost NEVER happens to anyone. Outbreaks are extremely rare. This is also the fear of eating soft cheeses. The only thing I abstained from while pregnant was alchohol. Unless your doctor specifically tells you not to eat something for a special reason -don't worry about it! I have two beautiful, healthy boys and ate Subway, Jersey Mikes and numerous other deli meat sandwiches whenever I wanted. I also ate plenty of feta, chevre and bleu cheese. If you want to cut all that out -go ahead, but don't stress out over it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lake Charles on

I have an 18 month old and im currently pregnant w/ our 2nd. i ate deli meat when i was pregnant and i still do with this one (when i can eat..lol) and my daughter is perfectly healthy.

Some things i woould avoid tho are herbal foods and herbal teas and vitamins. I drink herbal tea and then someone told that i shouldnt so i read up on it. It has some compound that helps fight cancer and could cause harm to an unborn baby.

As of that i dont know what else beside raw foods.



answers from Dallas on

you're fine. like she said below its the listeria that might be in the meat (a bacteria) - so its good to heat it. i ate cold ones while i was preggers...not that many, but i still ate them. i ate more hot ones. i would get subway to toast them really hot. i bought the hormel lunch meat that has no nitrites or nitrates and is preservative free and would bake my sanwhich in the oven at home to get a nice toasted affect with melted cheese.yum!



answers from Boise on

Yes, you are being over paranoid. :) It is good to heat up lunchmeats, but I had many sandwich cravings while pregnant, and my kids are fine. They also say to avoid nitrates and nitrites that are sometimes in deli meats. If you can use non processed meats, it is supposed to be better, but I just really like the taste of so many of those. Everything in moderation.


answers from Dallas on

Lunch meat doesn't surprise me. Anything that processed, with that many preservatives, is too far removed from natural to be altogether healthy. The one that surprised me when I was pregnant was fish. I changed my diet from fattening foods to fruits and veggies, lean meats, poultry and fish. Dr said there were high levels of mercury in my beautiful healthy steamed fish filet! Here I am trying to be healthy and they go and take a way my fish! Screw it, back to PB&Js! lol



answers from Sacramento on

My first job out of college years ago was doing PR for the meat industry. I was there when they had the big e.coli outbreak at Jack in the Box. In my two years there, I not once heard about a listeria outbreak in fresh lunch meat. That's not to say it doesn't happen, but it's definitely not one of the common foodborne illness sources. The biggest reason people get sick from meat products is because of poor handling -- they defrost on the kitchen counter instead of the fridge, use lunch meats a week+ later after opening the container, don't keep meat cold at picnics, don't cook burgers until there's no pink. etc. Human error is huge.

Sandwich chains go through regular inspections to make sure they follow safe food handling practices and honestly, it's in their best interest (lawsuit happy world). I wouldn't stress about your Jersey Mike's sub. Would I eat their subs every day? No. But moderation, sure.

I did stay away from unpasteurized cheeses while pregnant, but don't recall much more than that. I think you can drive yourself crazy with all of the worry lists out there now for moms.


answers from Dallas on

I've heard of this and had a co-worker that wouldn't eat deli meat. I on the other hand eat deli meat when I was pregnant, my kid came out fine.

One thing you should eat a lot of especially in the beginning of your pregnancy is oranges/orange juice; it's great for the baby and brain development.

Congrats on #2!!!



answers from New York on

Yes, its true and I was surprised about it too. Its ok if you heat them up like in a grilled sandwich like a rueben. You are not supposed to eat most types of cheese either. Mozzerella, Chedder, Swiss, and American are ok though. Don't be paranoid, we all "cheat"...but in the future don't eat them at all our heat them up. Aparently, listeria is a very scary thing because you don't know you have it until the baby ends up sick.



answers from Raleigh on

They do say not to eat deli meats now- this has been added to the do not eat list in the last few years. I am 40+ weeks pregnant now, and I would still eat the occasional club sandwich from places I trust- I craved deli baked turkey like you wouldn't believe and finally gave in. I read the statistics and 1500 people were infected with listeriosis last year- 500 of them being pregnant women. If you look at the overall percentage of infections, I figured the chances were would be very, very, very slim of getting listeriosis period, esp from infected meats.
The interesting thing was that right after I gave in and ate the sandwich, there was a report of a listeria outbreak on the news that very night, BUT it was for spinach and there was a big recall. After that , I wouldn't touch a salad green!
I would say steer clear of deli meats if you are worried, or heat them until steaming before eating. Don't worry about the sub you ate today. Statistically, you are going to be fine!



answers from Oklahoma City on

Pre-packaged deli meats was always my list of "don't eats" from my OBGYN. So fresh meats from the deli or sub shops are OK...no worries. And truth be told, you would probably have to consume lots of it for it to harm the baby. But deli meat is better anyway, so enjoy!

Take care



answers from Dallas on

You can heat up your food in the microwave. My doctor said that the chances are slim of contracting listeria. He also told me that if you ate it in moderation that you were fine. So one sandwich shouldn't be a problem. My doctor said I could have deli meat up to 3 times a week, without having to microwave it. I wouldn't worry if I were you. I had a deli sandwich every couple of weeks and I was fine and my daughter was perfectly healthy.



answers from Pine Bluff on

I don't think it will cause any harm to you or the baby.That's not too much to worry about.



answers from Phoenix on

My OB told me to eat what I wanted-deli meat, hot dogs, soft cheeses, rare steaks. I specifically asked about listeria and he said he had never seen a case of it in over 20 years working as an OB. Soft cheeses are only dangerous if unpasteurized, which also make them illegal to sell in restaurants in the U.S. You have to go to a specialty grocery store and buy imported cheese to find unpasteurized soft cheese in this country. I did eat all those things and my daughter is beautiful and perfectly healthy.



answers from Chicago on

I have 2 kids & have known not to eat deli meat. I know plenty of pregnant women who do eat it, but I didn't want to take a chance. I'm sure you'll be fine w/ the sub you ate today, but I personally would avoid eating anymore lunchmeat until after the baby comes. Congrats!



answers from Anchorage on

The only thing I gave up was raw sushi, which was hard since I was living in Japan at the time! I really would not worry, as long as you store and cook your food in a safe manner.



answers from Oklahoma City on

it seems that the only thing I could not have was shrimp, I aggree with the other person, it seems like ever couple of years they come up with something new and say the old bad thing is okay. congrats on the little one :)



answers from Phoenix on

When I saw your question I immediately thought of the lunch meats - that one threw me for a loop when I was pregnant myself. The deal is that listeria increases, and it is fine to eat lunch meats when you first get them, but once the package (at home) has been opened for more than 7 days, it's not considered 'safe' anymore.

So, enjoy, but probably not for everyday, every week!! What I did, since I am a sandwich lover and my husband isn't, (and didn't have kids to help eat it up back then either) was buy a smaller package and enjoy sandwiches everyday till the package was gone then go back to enjoying leftovers, pbj, chicken/tuna/egg sandwiches, for a while till I missed my meat sandwich too much then another small pkg for a couple days worth of sandwiches.

Moderation in all things. They put SO much in foods that aren't really good for you nowadays, the more "from scratch" you can make your foods, the better.


answers from Asheville on

its fine if you heat it in the microwave. it kills all the bacteria that may be present



answers from Miami on

Hi J.. I truly would not worry. My ped also said I could eat deli meats. The only thing I gave up during pregnancy was nutrasweet stuff, sushi, more than 1 cup of coffee a day, and wine.

Enjoy your sandwich.

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