As mentioned in the last two blog posts, pregnant women are more susceptible to foodborne illness due to their weakened immune systems. Not only do foodborne illnesses pose serious health risks to the pregnant women themselves, but can result in serious illnesses, diseases and long-term post-natal health issues in unborn fetuses. For these reasons, it is imperative that all pregnant women learn about and practice safe food handling and safe food preparation not only while pregnant, but also when trying to conceive and also while breastfeeding.

Symptoms of foodborne illness in pregnant women include various gastrointestinal problems that can lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Fevers, chills, body aches and headaches may also occur. Unborn babies exposed to foodborne illness-related parasites, bacteria and viruses could suffer from growth retardation, be born prematurely or, in some cases, be extremely ill at the time of birth and/or experience long-term developmental delays, attention deficits and/or cognitive abnormalities. Additionally foodborne illnesses can cause miscarriages and still births.

Here are some great tips, courtesy of Health Canada, for safe food handling while pregnant:

While Shopping …

1) Be sure to always keep you raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood separated from the rest of your groceries in your shopping cart

2) Place raw foods in individual plastic bags to avoid cross-contamination between the raw and the ready-made foods in your cart

3) Wait until the very end of your shopping excursion to pick up your cold, raw or frozen food items

4) If using reusable bags, clearly label the bags that transport your raw foods home, wash these bags regularly, and don’t mix them up

5) Wash your hands before, during and after a shopping trip if necessary

Once Home …

1) Immediately refrigerate all your raw and/or cold foods so as to prevent them from reaching the ‘temperature danger zone’

2) Make sure to keep you raw meat and seafood separate from other foods in the refrigerator. This can be done by using allocated and clearly labeled containers to keep them separated

3) Consider storing your raw meat and seafood at the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent them from possibly dripping onto other foods

4) Every time you handle raw meat or seafood at home make sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds

Food Prep & Cooking

1) Always wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them

2) Use a clean scrubbing brush with water to clean off vegetables that have firm or grooved skin such as carrots and potatoes

3) All plates, utensils and related surfaces used to prepare raw food (such as the sink or storage containers) should not be used, under any circumstances, for anything else until they have been thoroughly washed with warm, soapy water

4) Never leave cut fruit and vegetables sitting for extended periods without refrigeration

5) Don’t let leftovers cool for any longer than two hours before immediately refrigerating them

6) Raw or cold foods that have been defrosted should be cooked immediately

7) Throughly cook raw foods. Do not use the same utensils, plates or surfaces that you used while the foods were raw. Many people make this mistake when cooking steaks or other meat on the BBQ

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