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Publication #FAR8703

Listeria and Pregnant Women1

Amy Simonne and Donna Davis2

Figure 1. 
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For most families, when the good news of pregnancy gets out, both parents-to-be and other family members begin to prepare for the best and safest environment for the new addition. But did you know that during pregnancy both the fetus and the mother are even more susceptible to many foodborne illnesses? In fact, certain bacteria can cause an infection named listeriosis, which can be fatal to the unborn fetus.

Infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like illness; however, their unborn children are at risk. Infection during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, and even stillbirth. According to the CDC, approximately 2500 people become seriously ill and 500 people die each year from listeriosis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2005).

If you're pregnant, it's important to follow special recommendations for food safety. For example, don't eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they're reheated until steaming hot. Also, avoid getting fluid from the meat packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and your wash hands after handling these foods (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2005).

Soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and camembert are off-limits unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk. Also, do not eat refrigerated pâtés, meat spreads, or smoked seafood. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés, meat spreads, and smoked seafood are okay (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2005).

A little diet modification can be just as important as a car seat when it comes to the safety of a new baby.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Association of Women's Health, Obstestric and Neonatal Nurses. (2001, September) Listeriosis and pregnancy: What is your risk? [Delinked October 18, 2012]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005, October) Listeriosis. Retrieved October 18, 2012:

United States Food and Drug Association. (1992, January) Listeria monoctyogenes. [Delinked October 18, 2012]



This document is FAR8703, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 169 and published February 2008. Revised May 2008. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.