Food Safety: Listeria

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Pregnant women are at high risk for getting sick from Listeria, harmful bacteria found in many foods. Listeria can lead to a disease called listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, serious sickness, or death of a newborn baby. If you are pregnant, you need to know what foods are safe to eat.

How will I know I have listeriosis?

Because the illness could take weeks to show up, you may not know you have it. Early signs may include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and upset stomach. At first, you may feel as if you have the flu. Later on, you could have a stiff neck, headache, convulsions, or lose your balance.

What should I do if I think I have listeriosis?

Call your doctor, nurse, or health clinic if you have any of the signs. If you have listeriosis, your doctor can treat you.

What can I do to keep my baby and myself safe from listeriosis?

  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, bologna, or other deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâté, meat spreads from a meat counter, or smoked seafood found in the refrigerated section of the store. Foods that don’t need refrigeration, like canned tuna and canned salmon, are okay to eat. Refrigerate after opening.
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.
  • Do not eat soft cheese such as Feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, Brie, Camembert cheeses, blue-veined cheeses, and Panela unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says, “MADE WITH PASTEURIZED MILK.”
  • Follow the 4 rules to fight bacteria–Fight BAC!®

For more information about food safety:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: 
  • USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-888-MPHotline (toll-free nationwide) or 1-888-674-6854 • TTY: 1-800-256-7072

This post was last updated on December 19th, 2019 at 9:31 AM

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