Q. I am pregnant and have read a warning for pregnant women about Listeria. What is it?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 12 September 2013.
Tagged: food safety, fresh food, healthy cooking, healthy eating, pregnancy, special diets, take-away

Q. I am pregnant and have read a warning for pregnant women about Listeria. What is it?

A. In recent times, there have been several updates on the food-poisoning bacteria Listeria. This is important for:

  • Pregnant women and their unborn baby
  • People whose immune systems cannot fight off infections
  • Older people over 70

Listeria bacteria are found widely in nature but they can be higher in things such as pre-prepared foods, raw foods or cooked foods which have been kept for some time after they have cooled down.

Here's the best thing for you to do. You can take precautions to avoid Listeria by:

  • eating only freshly prepared and well-washed food
  • following good food hygiene such as washing and drying hands
  • reheating foods to 'steaming' hot
  • refrigerating leftovers immediately and not keeping them any more than a day.

Check out the table below which lists the high risk foods to avoid and the safe foods to replace them with.

High risk foods Replace with safer alternatives
Cold meats purchased pre-sliced or packaged from deli's and sandwich bars Home cooked meats used within a day of cooking
Takeaway cold cooked chicken Home cooked chicken or hot takeaway chicken - whole portion only
Pate No alternative
Pre-prepared/packed salads Freshly prepared home made salads washed throughly
Raw, smoked or ready to eat cold cooked seafood All freshly cooked seafood used within a day of cooking
Cheese- soft, semi-soft and surface ripened chesses both pre-packaged and deli bought (brie, camembert, ricotta, deta, blue) Hard and processed cheeses purchased pre-packed by the manufacturer (cheddar, tasty, cottage cheese, cream cheese)
Soft serve ice-cream Packaged ice cream

Some high risk foods become safe when cooked (soft and semi-soft cheeses) or reheated and served to steaming hot throughout (left overs)

For more information, go to FSANZ.