Information update

Health Canada reminds pregnant women of the importance of food safety

Starting date:
July 8, 2019
Type of communication:
Information Update
Other, Affects children, pregnant or breast feeding women
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Food Safety
General Public
Identification number:

Last updated: 2019-07-08

OTTAWA – During pregnancy, you and your unborn baby are at an increased risk of food poisoning. Your immune system is weakened, making it more difficult to fight off infections and leaving you vulnerable to serious health problems.

Food poisoning can be even more dangerous to your unborn baby’s health than to yours. You­­­­r unborn baby's immune system is not developed enough to fight off harmful foodborne bacteria—such as Listeria—that can pass through the placenta.

It is estimated that there are approximately 4 million cases of foodborne illness (including food poisoning) in Canada every year. It is especially important for pregnant women to pay attention to food safety.

What you should do to minimize your risk of food poisoning:

  • Clean: Wash your hands before and after handling foods. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and kitchen surfaces often with warm, soapy water. Machine wash your reusable grocery bags frequently.
  • Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods.
  • Cook: Cook food to its safe internal temperature. For the most accurate reading, check cooking temperatures by using a digital food thermometer.
  • Chill:  Refrigerate food and leftovers promptly at 4°C (40oF) or below. Defrost raw meat, poultry and fish in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Never at room temperature. Foods defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Never refreeze thawed food.

High-risk foods during pregnancy

Some foods are more likely to make you sick than others because of how they are produced and stored. You should avoid these foods during pregnancy:

  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry and seafood;
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood;
  • Raw sprouts;
  • Unpasteurized juice, cider and milk;
  • Unpasteurized and pasteurized soft, semi-soft and blue-veined cheeses;
  • Refrigerated pâtés, meat spreads, non-dried deli meats and hot dogs straight from the package without further heating; and
  • Uncooked foods made from raw or unpasteurized eggs.

While some foods carry a higher risk to pregnant women, there are a variety of safe food alternatives available. Consult the chart on safe food alternatives for pregnant women, to help you make safer food choices during your pregnancy.

If you suspect food poisoning

Food poisoning can’t always be treated at home. If you are pregnant and suspect food poisoning, it is important to seek medical attention.

If left untreated, food poisoning can cause serious complications, including death. Symptoms can start within hours of eating the contaminated food, or sometimes, not for days or even weeks later. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and fever.

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