Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to some food-borne infections owing to their altered immunity, and because infections that may prove harmless to the mother can seriously affect the baby’s development.
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Keep your kitchen clean and dry and, as part of normal hygiene practice, wash your hands thoroughly before preparing foods. It is also a good idea to keep pets out of the kitchen at all times.
Store raw meat at the bottom of the fridge, covered, and separate from cooked foods. To reduce the risk of infection, the temperature of your fridge should be below 5 °C and that of your freezer below minus 18 °C.
Frozen produce must be defrosted thoroughly before cooking and all foods should be cooked or reheated thoroughly. Throw away all foods past their ‘best by’ date.
Avoid foods that can increase the risk of infection with Salmonella, Listeria or Toxoplasma such as:
- ripened soft cheeses e.g. Brie, Camembert and Cambozola;
- blue-veined cheeses e.g. Stilton, Roquefort, Blue Shropshire, Blue Brie and Dolcelatte;
- goat or sheep cheeses e.g. feta and Chevre;
- any unpasteurised soft and cream cheese
(NB: All hard Cheddar-type cheeses are safe, as are cottage cheese, soft processed cheese spreads and cream cheese);
- any undercooked (raw, rare or pink) meat;
- raw eggs or any that are not fully hard boiled;
- cook-chill meals and ready-to-eat poultry unless thoroughly reheated;
- all types of pate;
- ready-prepared coleslaw and salads;
- unwrapped foods that are not reheated thoroughly (e.g. sausage rolls);
- unpasteurised milk or dairy products;
- rolls or sandwiches containing any of the above;
- soft whipped ice-cream from ice-cream machines.
Try to avoid alcohol altogether during the three months before trying to conceive, and throughout pregnancy if you can. Alcohol is a cell poison that becomes concentrated in the cells of a developing baby to produce higher levels than in the mother. Avoiding even small amounts of alcohol can reduce the risk of miscarriage, and congenital defects.
Some studies suggest that low intakes of alcohol (up to eight units in a week) are not harmful during later pregnancy but the best advice is to avoid alcohol altogether for at least the first three months of pregnancy.
If you find it difficult to go without alcohol after this, the odd drink (one or two units) once or twice a week during the later stages of pregnancy is unlikely to cause serious harm but may increase the risk of miscarriage.