Renaissance Women's Group – Austin OBGYN

Food-Borne Risks in Pregnancy

Eating Safely During Pregnancy

Certain soft cheeses, ready-to-eat meats (including packaged luncheon meats and deli meats) and unpasteurized milk (and products made from it) can cause a form of food poisoning called listeriosis. Listeriosis is caused by a bacterium and can be especially dangerous during pregnancy.  Pregnant women should follow these guidelines from the FDA:

  • Do not eat hot dogs or luncheon meats (including deli meats such as ham, turkey, salami, and bologna) unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, brie, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco or Panela unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream and cottage cheeses are safe.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads. (Listeria thrives at refrigerator temperatures.) Canned and shelf-stable versions are safe.
  • Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood unless it has been cooked (as in a casserole). Canned and shelf-stable versions can be eaten safely.
  • Do not consume unpasteurized juices, milk, or foods made from it.
  • A pregnant woman who eats liver regularly may consume enough vitamin A to pose a risk to her baby. Though it is not proven that eating liver causes birth defects, the safest approach is for pregnant women to minimize their consumption of liver.
  • Always wash vegetables and fruits before eating and refrigerate unused cooked foods promptly.


 Advice on Mercury in Fish & Shellfish (FDA & EPA)

Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids.  A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children’s proper growth and development.  Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish.  By following these 3 recommendations for selecting and eating fish or shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.

  • DO NOT eat Shark/Swordfish/King Mackerel/Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  • DO eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish & shellfish that are lower in mercury.
  • Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock & catfish.
  • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (“white”) tuna, has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers & coastal areas.  If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.
  • Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.

For more information, toll-free at 1-888-SAFEFOOD or