FSA Issues Warning to Pregnant Women About Disease-Causing Bacteria

pregnant woman touching her belly
3 min reading time

Pregnant women across the nation are being urged to exercise extreme caution regarding their food choices following a warning issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The advisory, released on October 23, 2023, centers around the potential risks associated with consuming certain foods that may harbor disease-causing bacteria, posing potential threats to both the mother and unborn child.

The FSA’s warning comes as part of their ongoing efforts to protect public health, especially vulnerable groups like pregnant women, infants, and the elderly, from foodborne illnesses. The primary concern in this latest alert is the risk of contracting Listeriosis, a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

Listeriosis can have serious consequences for pregnant women, including miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or severe illness in the newborn. This disease is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress. In some cases, it can progress to more severe forms, leading to meningitis or septicemia.

The FSA has identified several high-risk foods that pregnant women should be particularly cautious about:

1. Soft Cheeses: Soft and mould-ripened cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses like Roquefort can contain Listeria. The FSA advises avoiding these cheeses unless they have been thoroughly cooked.

2. Pâté: All types of pâté, including vegetable and meat-based, are potential sources of Listeria. Pregnant women are advised not to consume them.

3. Pre-Packaged Salad Greens: Bagged or pre-packaged salad greens can sometimes harbor Listeria due to the moist environment inside the packaging. Washing them thoroughly before consumption can help reduce the risk.

4. Ready-to-Eat Chilled Foods: Items like pre-made sandwiches, cold meats, and deli salads can also contain Listeria. Pregnant women are advised to thoroughly heat these foods until they are steaming hot before consumption.

5. Unpasteurized Dairy Products: Unpasteurized milk and dairy products should be avoided as they can carry Listeria.

The FSA recommends that pregnant women adhere to proper food handling and hygiene practices to minimize the risk of Listeriosis. This includes washing hands and cooking utensils regularly, ensuring that food is cooked thoroughly, and refraining from eating high-risk foods.

Dr. Sarah Collins, Chief Scientist at the FSA, emphasized the importance of these precautions, saying, “Listeriosis is a rare but severe illness that can have devastating consequences for pregnant women and their babies. While the risk is relatively low, it is crucial for expectant mothers to take every precaution to protect themselves and their unborn children.”

Pregnant women who suspect they may have consumed high-risk foods and are experiencing symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, or gastrointestinal distress should seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve outcomes for both mother and child.

The FSA’s warning serves as a vital reminder to pregnant women to remain vigilant about their food choices and hygiene practices during this critical period to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth.

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