The Norman Transcript

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June 15, 2014

Food safety for moms-to-be

NORMAN — Pregnancy is a time of change and great expectations. It also is a time when a pregnant woman is in a high-risk group for foodborne illness.

Because an expectant mother’s immune system is altered during pregnancy, it is hard for her body to fight off certain harmful foodborne micro-organisms that can affect her and/or her unborn baby.

During pregnancy, it is especially important to keep aspects of food safety in mind, including clean, separate, cook and chill. Clean means to wash hands and surfaces often. Do not cross-contaminate foods. Be sure to cook foods to the proper internal temperature. And finally, refrigerate foods promptly.

Something else expectant moms need to keep in mind is methylmercury, a metal found in fish, including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark. If eaten by a pregnant woman, the methlymercury in these fish can be harmful to the unborn baby. Although fish is an important part of a healthy diet, pregnant women should avoid eating certain types of fish.

Expectant moms should try to prevent listeriosis. This infection is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, which is a harmful bacterium that can be found in foods made from unpasteurized (raw) milk; refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods; and contaminated fruits and vegetables.

It is critical to promptly refrigerate foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to help prevent listeriosis. In addition, discard any food left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Something else expectant moms should avoid is Toxoplasma, a parasite found in raw or undercooked meat, unwashed produce, contaminated water, soil and dirty cat-litter boxes. If ingested, it can cause toxoplasmosis and harm a woman and her baby.

Keep in mind food safety is important at all times, but is especially important for a woman who is pregnant. If a mother has been exposed to any of these harmful bacteria, she needs to immediately contact her physician.

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