Food safety in pregnancy - Listeria and Toxoplasmosis

What foods to avoid during pregnancy, blog 01, OGC&G

Foods to avoid during pregnancy

  • Foods which may contain Listeria bacteria like soft cheese (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese). Hard cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan are fine.
  • Deli sandwich meats, bean sprouts, pre-prepared salads and pate’
  • Raw eggs as they may contain salmonella
  • Raw or undercooked meats
  • Fish that may contain high levels of mercury – Food standards Australia & New Zealand recommend consuming no more than one serving (100g cooked) per fortnight of shark/flake, marlin or broadbill/swordfish, and no other fish that fortnight. Or one serving (100g cooked) per week of orange roughly (deep sea perch) or catfish and no other fish that week
  • Soft serve ice cream
  • Uncooked or smoked sea food ie: sushi, salmon
  • Unpasteurised milk
  • Raw shellfish
  • Alcohol and limited caffeine. Experts recommend not drinking more than 300mg of caffeine daily. Keep in mind that some medications for colds and flu also contain caffeine and alcohol

Listeria – What is it?

Listeria are bacteria that can cause a serious illness called Listeriosis.

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 (septicaemia, meningitis) but note that it is very rare.

To reduce the chances of getting Listeria wash your 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

Toxoplasmosis – What is it?

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

The importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy

It’s not just important to eat enough during pregnancy. What you eat is just as important. Following a healthy ensures you and baby get what you need throughout the pregnancy. It also ensures that you gain a healthy amount of weight and enjoy a smoother pregnancy.

You should aim to consume a healthy balance of the five major food groups. Staying hydrated is just as important. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating makes the following recommendations:

  • Breads, cereals, rice and pasta: Up to 8 servings per day. 1 serving would be 1 slice of bread or ½ cup of cooked rice. You can also use 15g of poly or monounsaturated fats and oils on bread or during cooking.
  • Vegetables and legumes. Up to 5 servings per day. 1 serving would be ½ cooked vegetables or ½ cup of cooked beans or lentils. 1 small potato is also considered a single serving.
  • Fruits. Up to 2 servings of fruit per day. 1 medium apple or 1 cup of diced fruit pieces is considered to be 1 serving.
  • Dairy. Up to 3.5 servings of dairy can be consumed per day. This includes milk, yoghurt and cheese. 250ml of milk is considered 1 serving, as is 40g of cheese. Stick to hard cheeses to avoid harmful bacteria.
  • Meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Up to 3.5 servings per day. 65g of meat or chicken, 100g of fish fillet and 2 large eggs are considered to be 1 serving.

Fats and oils aren’t mentioned in their own category because you will get your required amount from the other foods you eat. Following a healthy eating plan during pregnancy doesn’t have to be tricky. It will require some extra planning and you will need to forgo a lot of your usual favourites but it will be well worth it.

For more information, visit Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.


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

5 female specialist obstetricians, O&GCG Melbourne, Dr Jean Wong, Dr Leah Xu, Dr Natalia Khomko, Dr Perri Dyson and Dr Robin Thurman

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