Food safety in pregnancy
It is always important to be careful about how you prepare and store food in the home to avoid the nasty bugs that can cause food poisoning. When you are pregnant, planning a baby or have just had your baby, it is more important than ever. Just following some basic guidelines can really help to reduce your risk of getting food poisoning. Remembering the four ‘Cs’ can be useful:
Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
Cross-contaminate: Separate, don’t cross – contaminate
Cook: To safe temperature
Chill: Refrigerate properly
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water and dry them - before handling and preparing food and after touching raw foods (especially meat), going to the toilet or changing nappies, touching animals (including pets) and touching bins.
- Clean work surfaces, including your chopping boards and utensils, thoroughly before and after preparing food, especially if you are preparing raw foods such as raw meat.
- Wash fruit and vegetables by rubbing them under water, for example in a bowl of fresh water, before eating.
- Have separate chopping boards for raw food (especially meat) and ready to eat foods, or wash it thoroughly in between preparing different types of food, to avoid bacteria from raw food being transferred. Don't forget to also clean knives and other utensils thoroughly after using them to prepare food.
- Store raw food (especially meat) and ready to eat foods separately and don't allow them to come into contact or be placed on the same surface without washing it. Bacteria in raw food can be killed when you cook it, but not if they are transferred to foods like salads, fruit or bread.
- Make sure you cover raw meat, or keep it in a sealable container, and keep it on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that it cannot touch or drip on to any other foods.
- Do not wash raw chicken (or other poultry, like turkey) before cooking it, as washing may splash harmful bacteria onto kitchen surfaces.
- When you cook food, make sure that it is piping hot all the way through. Make sure that any meat, whether cooked in your kitchen or on the barbeque, is thoroughly cooked. During pregnancy, all rare (pink) meats should be avoided, including lamb and beef. Check that they are cooked all the way through with no pink meat on the inside. Insert a knife into the deepest part and make sure the juices run clear.
- When you reheat food, make sure it is piping hot all the way through. Foods should not be reheated more than once as cooling and reheating food more than once increases the risk of food poisoning.
- Use a fridge thermometer to check your fridge temperature and make sure it is between 0 and 5oC
- If you have leftovers or food that you are not going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as you can (ideally within an hour and a half) and then store it in the fridge or freezer. Make sure you let the food cool down before you put it in the fridge, otherwise it may raise the fridge temperature. Eat foods that you have stored in the fridge within 2 days.
- Harmful bacteria can grow in foods with a 'use by' date (e.g. cooked meats, cheeses, prepared salads) so don't eat them after they've gone past the 'use by' date.
- Never put open cans in the fridge as the metal may transfer to the can’s contents – place the contents in a covered container instead.
- Do not refreeze raw foods or foods meant to be frozen (e.g. frozen desserts that have been thawed). Defrosted raw foods can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days before being cooked. Defrosted cooked food must be reheated and eaten immediately.
Information reviewed September 2015
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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.