Food safety in pregnancy - Listeria and Toxoplasmosis

Food safety in pregnancy 1

Which foods should I avoid?

  • Foods which may contain listeria bacteria like soft cheese (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese).
  • Deli sandwich meats, bean sprouts, pre-prepared salads and pate’.
  • Raw eggs as the may contain salmonella
  • Fish that may contain high levels of mercury – Food standards Australia New Zealand recommend consuming no more than one serve (100g cooked) per fortnight of shark/flake, marlin or broadbill/swordfish, and no other fish that fortnight, or one serve (100g cooked) per week of orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish and no other fish that week.
  • soft serve icecream
  • uncooked or smoked sea food ie: sushi, salmon
  • unpasteurised milk

What is Listeria?

Listeria are bacteria that can cause a serious illness called Listeriosis in some people. Listeriosis is usually caused by eating food contaminated by certain types of listeria bacteria. The listeria bacteria are found widely in nature. Storing contaminated foods, even in the refrigerator, may allow the listeria bacteria to grow. The bacteria may be present in raw foods or may contaminate food after it has been cooked or processed.

Listeria can contaminate food and cause infection which in pregnancy can lead to:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • premature birth
  • a baby that is very sick at birth

Symptoms in adults range from mild (fever, headaches, tiredness, aches and pains) to severe (septicemia, meningitis) but note that it is very rare.

To reduce the chance of getting listeria wash hands, cooking areas and kitchen tools, wash raw vegetables and fruit, refrigerate leftover food and reheat to piping hot (heat kills listeria).

More information can be found at and


Cat poo and cat litter can contain the toxoplasmosis parasite which should be avoided (wear gloves and wash hands). Also always cook meat thoroughly and wash salad vegetables.


By following these simple steps you can reduce the risk to yourself and your unborn child. You should ask your specialist obstetrician if you are in doubt whether a particular food has known risks to your pregnancy.

Food safety in pregnancy 2

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