Be especially careful with food preparation these days to prevent food-borne illness.


Admit it: You don't think twice about sampling a few spoonfuls of cookie dough before it makes its way into the oven. While eating foods with raw eggs in them is not a good idea any time, it's an especially bad idea now that you're pregnant. Every year, 76 million Americans get sick from contaminated food, and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable. The illnesses range from mild--producing flulike symptoms such as upset stomach, diarrhea, cramps, and headache--to fatal. Approximately 5,000 people in the United States die each year from food-borne illness.

Food-borne illness occurs when you eat food that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins. Bacterial contamination is most common. You can't avoid harmful bacteria completely, but if you follow these steps, you can help prevent them from making you and your family sick:

  • Wash your hands before preparing foods and after changing diapers, using the bathroom, touching pets, coughing or sneezing, taking out the garbage, and handling raw meats, fish, or eggs.
  • Cook meats thoroughly. Use an oven thermometer to determine the internal temperature of cooked foods. Roasts and steaks should register at least 145 degrees F; whole poultry, 180 degrees F; and pork, ground beef, and casseroles, 160 degrees F.
  • Reheat leftovers thoroughly.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well.
  • Avoid raw eggs and egg products and foods that contain raw eggs. When cooking eggs, cook them thoroughly until the yolk is hard.
  • If you take leftover food home from a restaurant, be sure to refrigerate it promptly.
  • Check expiration dates and toss old food in the trash.
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly to remove any trace of bacteria that may spread onto food.
  • Wash countertops, cutting boards, and utensils with hot, soapy water.
  • Use one set of cutting boards and utensils for produce and another for meat.
  • Throw away moldy foods.
  • Set your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below to prevent bacteria from multiplying. Set your freezer at 0 degrees F or below.
  • Refrigerate hot foods as soon as possible, at least within two hours after cooking.
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator or microwave oven. Never defrost at room temperature.
  • If a food has been sitting out for more than 2 hours, throw it away.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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