10 foods to avoid while pregnant … and why

Pregnancy hormones can lower a woman’s immune system to the point that infections and diseases that she would normally fight off can have much more serious consequences.

When talking about food poisoning, the two main culprits are listeria (Listeria monocytogenes) and salmonella. In Australia, one in ten cases of listeriosis is a pregnant woman, and for one in five of those women, the disease tragically results in the death of the fetus. Newborn babies are also particularly susceptible.

Foods that carry a higher risk of listeria or salmonella contamination should, therefore, be avoided while pregnant.

These include:

  • Soft and semi-soft cheeses e.g. blue, camembert, brie, etc unless pasteurised
  • Sandwich shop meats e.g. salami, devon, ham, chicken and turkey. Can be eaten if heated until they are steaming (>= 75°C)
  • Paté and meat spreads
  • Soft serve ice cream
  • Foods containing raw or semi-cooked eggs e.g. home-made mayonnaise and aioli, chocolate mousse, cake batter, etc
  • Salads (including fruit salads) that have been prepared or packaged in bulk e.g. in salad bars or smorgasbords
  • Bean sprouts raw. Can be eaten if thoroughly cooked
  • Sushi
  • Raw and smoked seafood e.g. oysters
  • Raw meat

It’s quite a list, but the general rule is – stick to cooked foods and eat them while they’re hot. Heating anything to 75°C will quickly kill listeria and salmonella.


prenancy fact shee


For more reading, see this excellent fact sheet from NSW Health