Food Safety Tips in Pregnancy: Healthy Eating for You & Your Baby

Ways to Ensure Food Safety during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when you need to be extremely careful about your food habits. One of the main responsibilities that you have during pregnancy is to protect your unborn baby from infections and food poisoning. Let’s see how you can ensure your baby’s safety by ensuring food safety.

Importance of Food Safety during Pregnancy

In case you get any food poisoning, the effects on your body will manifest either in the form of diarrhoea, vomiting, headache, abdominal cramps and nausea. It can also be accompanied with chills and a high temperature. These can cause harmful germs to pass onto your unborn baby. Especially some kinds of food poisoning, like listeriosis may pose a greater risk to your baby’s health. Foods like poultry, red meat and seafood and bacteria like salmonella, listeria, E. Coli, and campylobacter most commonly cause food poisoning. Viruses like norovirus and rotavirus can also cause it by transfer to food from dirty hands. If proper care is not taken, all these consequences may arise, hence it is important that you ensure food safety during pregnancy.

How to Maintain Food Hygiene in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, you have to be very careful and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after any activity. Here is how you can maintain food hygiene during pregnancy:

  • Your hands might be covered with dirt and germs from the kitchen, toilet, and other places outdoors, which potentially could transfer to your food resulting in food poisoning. So before handling food, wash your hands to prevent any germs spreading.
  • Wash your hands after cleaning raw meat and fish. Bacteria might spread from them to other foods. But don’t wash poultry before cooking it as you could splash bacteria onto work surfaces and your hands.
  • Remember to dry your hands properly after washing as damp hands are collection sites for bacteria
  • If you are suffering from diarrhoea or stomach problems, don’t handle food till your symptoms go away. Dry your hands on a separate towel.
  • If you have any cuts or sores on your hands, make sure to cover them with bandages that are waterproof so that they don’t come into contact with any food or other items.A Pregnant woman washing utensils

What Is the Ideal Temperature for Storing Food?

Food has to be stored at the right temperature to prevent any bacteria from growing on them.

  • Freezers should be at -18°C and refrigerator should be below 5°C. Most refrigerators these days have temperature displays, but if yours does not, you could buy a freezer or a fridge thermostat.
  • If you buy frozen foods, make sure to put them in the freezer immediately after you reach home or else you can even carry a freezer box with you while shopping and keep the food there.
  • If you have any leftovers from a big dinner or barbeque, make sure to put them in boxes and into the fridge or freezer as soon as possible.
  • When you remove leftovers from the fridge, don’t leave them out for a long time. Reheat them fully and eat them soon to prevent spoilage.
  • Don’t keep any food lukewarm as germs populate more on lukewarm food.
  • If you are organising lunch or dinner for friends, keep the food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible.
  • Keep foods like meat, poultry, and foods which contain raw eggs and cream well-chilled.

Food Storage Tips for Avoiding Food Poisoning

There are several ways to protect food from giving you food poisoning when you are keeping food in the fridge or a cupboard:

  • Check the expiry dates on food and eat it well before that time. Don’t eat some food which is past the expiry date even if it might look and smell completely fine.
  • Always cover food with a tight lid or cling film wrap.
  • Place cooked food at the top of the fridge and raw food at the bottom. Ensure that fruit and vegetables are well separated from raw fish and meat.

How to Cook Food Safely during Pregnancy

Pointers on how to prepare food in a safe way when you are pregnant include:

  • Don’t wash poultry as the bacteria may transfer to your work surface and sink.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits properly under running water. Rub and rinse them thoroughly to remove any dirt particles which may carry germs.
  • When you cook food, cook it fully so that you can see the steam rising from it, particularly for poultry and meat.
  • When you reheat food, make sure it is very hot and reheated fully. Never reheat it more than once.
  • Make sure that the meat is always properly cooked when you are barbequing. This means that the middle should not be pink and the juice should be clear when you pierce it with a skewer. The skewer should be clean, and you should pierce it through the thickest part of the meat or the middle to check this.
  • If you are using a microwave, check that the food is hot in the middle before you eat it.
  • Defrost frozen foods and thaw them properly before cooking.

Tips for Preventing Cross-contamination Between Foods

Cross-contamination happens when germs pass from one food to another. Here are a few ways to prevent food poisoning from cross-contamination:

  • Clean table-tops and any work surface with soapy, hot water before you prepare food. You can also use an anti-bacterial spray and a clean cloth.
  • Wash your hands after touching raw foods.
  • Don’t wash poultry before cooking.
  • Clean any spills immediately.
  • Wash hand towels often and keep a separate one for drying your hands.
  • Replace sponges, kitchen towel, and scrubbers often to prevent breeding of any bacteria.
  • Use different chopping boards for ready to eat food and raw food.
  • Store fruits and salads separately from raw meat.
  • Wash your knives and other utensils used to prepare raw food thoroughly with soapy, hot water.
  • Keep raw meat in covered boxes at the bottom of the fridge so that it doesn’t touch the other foods.

Is Restaurant Food Safe for Pregnant Woman?

If you want to eat in a restaurant during pregnancy, first, check to see if the restaurant fulfils the hygiene standards of your state food authority. If you notice any of these signs mentioned below, don’t go to that particular restaurant:

  • Insects or hair in your food.
  • Rubbish bins that are overflowing with trash outside the restaurant and attracting flies.
  • Dirty glasses, crockery, cutlery, and tables.
  • Same serving utensils for both raw and ready to eat foods.
  • Waiters and cooks with dirty hands, long untied hair and dirty aprons.
  • Display food past its expiry date.
  • Dirty sink, toilets, and other such areas which are public.

Make sure to follow the above food safety tips when you are pregnant to keep yourself as well as your baby, clean, and germ-free!

Also Read: Consuming Spicy Food in Pregnancy

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