Did you know that pregnant women are at a high risk for foodborne illness?
A pregnant woman and the growing fetus are at risk because the immune system is weakened, which makes it more difficult to fight off harmful foodborne microorganisms. Foodborne microorganisms can cause serious health problems, which can lead to death.
There are three specific foodborne risks: listeria, methylmercury and toxoplasma.

Listeria is a bacterium that can grow at refrigerator temperatures where most other foodborne bacteria do not, causing the illness, listeriosis. The bacteria are commonly found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods, unpasterurized milk and milk products.
Steps to avoid listeria:
1. Do not eat hot dogs and luncheon meats — unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
2. Do not eat soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined cheeses, “queso blanco,” “queso fresco” and panela — except for those that are labeled as being made with pasteurized milk.
3. Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads.
4. Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. (Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna and mackerel, is most often labeled “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked” or “jerky.” These types of fish are found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.)
5. Do not drink raw (unpasterurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
Methylmercury comes from a metal that can be found in certain fish. At high levels, it can be harmful to an unborn baby’s developing nervous system. Methylmercury is found in large, long-living fish such as shark, tilefish, king mackerel and swordfish.
Steps to avoid methylmercury:
1. Do not eat shark, tilefish, king mackerel or swordfish.
2. Before and during pregnancy eat 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten low-mercury seafood are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, so limit your consumption of albacore to 6 ounces per week.
Toxoplasma comes from a harmful parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and can be difficult to detect. Toxoplasma can come from these sources: raw and undercooked meat; unwashed fruits and vegetables; dirty litter boxes, and soil and outdoor places where cat feces may be found.
To prevent toxoplasma illness, avoid:
1. Changing the litter box. If there is no option but to change the litter box, consider wearing gloves and washing you hands well afterwards.
2. Wear gloves when gardening or handling sand from a sandbox.
3. Cook meat thoroughly.
4. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.