By: Kris Sollid Date: 9/27/10
Today marks the beginning of the last week of Food Safety Education Month, and as they say, “all good things must come to an end.” However, should the calendar really be our reference in when we begin and end handling food safely? In fact, food safety practices should never cease. Safe food handling is an important part of our daily lives, but sadly, the topic often gets overlooked.
Fortunately for me, I’m reminded constantly by colleagues here at IFIC that food can’t be nutritious unless it’s safe first. I’m also reminded frequently these days of the specific nutrition needs during pregnancy as many friends and family have recently entered this joyous stage of life, and I’ve been thrilled to contribute my knowledge of nutrition when needed. There is perhaps no time in life when special attention to safe and healthful eating is more critical than during pregnancy.
While there are many facets to healthy eating during pregnancy, food safety plays an integral role. But there is more to eating safe while pregnant than meets the eye. Here are some fears and frequently asked questions I’ve received recently, you may have been wondering some of these yourself:
Can I still eat deli meats?
• Yes. However, certain refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods meats (hot dogs, luncheon or deli meats) should only be consumed after being heated until steaming hot.
Why do I have to heat them up?
o There is a specific type of bacteria that can grow in the refrigerator (Listeria monocytogenes) which can cause serious illness to pregnant women, unborn babies, and newborns.
Do I have to give up my love for seafood?
• No. Seafood can be extremely beneficial during pregnancy as its consumption contributes to heart health, brain development and the children’s proper growth and development. Pregnant women should eat up to 12 ounces a week of seafood that is low in mercury to meet daily nutrient goals. Examples of low mercury content fish include shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. The FDA, EPA, and USDA recommend pregnant women avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish for their high mercury content.
Why do I need to worry about mercury content?
o High levels of mercury can harm the developing nervous system of an unborn child. However, for proper context, mercury levels do not pose the greatest risk to pregnant women when it comes to seafood consumption. According to the Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on the Risks and Benefits of Fish Consumption, the real risk is avoiding seafood altogether, thus not eating enough long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to support optimal neurodevelopment of the child.
I love cheese, but have heard that I may have to forego my cravings. Please tell me this is not true!
• Yes and no. Soft cheeses (i.e. blue-veined cheeses, Brie, Camembert, feta, and certain Mexican cheeses) are the ones to look out for, but can be safe to consume only after you’ve READ THE LABEL! Before you consume any cheese, be certain it says “made with pasteurized milk.”
Don’t take away my morning Joe!
• Good news on the coffee front, my fellow java lovers. New guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that caffeine intake levels of up to 200mg per day, or about one 12-ounce cup, does not increase a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.
• However, as not everyone reacts to caffeine in the same manner, monitoring your intake and speaking to your OB/GYN about your caffeine consumption is always a prudent course of action.
I was warned about toxoplasma gondii, what is it and how can I prevent it?
• Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite which can cause toxoplasmosis. You can become infected by eating contaminated, undercooked meat (especially pork and lamb) that contains the parasite. Take note if you have a cat, as cat feces may also contain this parasite. To prevent toxoplasmosis:
o Cook food thoroughly to the recommended temperatures
o Peel or thoroughly wash your fruits and veggies
o Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with your cat or raw meat
Pregnancy is a wonderful and life-changing event in so many ways, but it’s definitely not a time to neglect food safety. So, to all the pregnant mothers and mothers-to-be out there, enjoy this stage of life. Eat well and eat safe!
For additional resources concerning food safety and pregnancy, please visit: