Food Safety

This information complies with current recommendations for Australia and New Zealand so please refer to your country’s guidelines if outside this region. For a detailed look at recommended daily intakes for a range of nutrients, head to our Pregnancy Nutrition page.

Written by Natasha Leader, Accredited Practising Dietitian & Credentialled Diabetes Educator


Listeria is a type of food bacteria which can cause a disease called listeriosis. This can be transmitted to your baby and can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, premature birth and other serious health problems. Avoiding certain foods during pregnancy and practising good food hygiene are steps you can take to reduce the risk of infection.

Food Standards New Zealand & Australia (FSANZ) recommends avoiding:

  • Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta
  • Cold meats including ham and chicken
  • Paté
  • Pre-prepared salads and similar deli items such as roasted vegetables and olives
  • Raw seafood (oysters, sashimi) and chilled seafood (prawns, crab)
  • Smoked seafood such as smoked salmon or smoked oysters
  • Unpasteurised milk or food made from it
  • Soft-serve ice-cream

Food hygiene

  • Eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared food (listeria bacteria can grow in refrigerated food but is killed by thorough heating/cooking)
  • Food should be steaming hot when served (whether take-away or homemade)
  • Thaw meat and ready-to-eat frozen food in the fridge or microwave (not at room temperature)
  • Prepare food on a clean surface and wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling raw meat

For a detailed list of safe and higher risk food see the FSANZ fact sheet on Listeria.

General food safety

For general food safety in pregnancy you should ensure you only eat well cooked meats and eggs (this means no fresh mayonnaise). Sprouts (alfalfa, mung beans etc.) should not be eaten unless well cooked because of the risk of salmonella. Aged meats such as salamis, cabanossi etc. should be avoided even if served hot as they are an E.coli risk. Leftovers should be fine to consume within 24 hours so long as you ensure you reheat them thoroughly. Food should only be reheated once and if not consumed it should be discarded. And liver should not be eaten due to its high vitamin A content, as too much vitamin A can be harmful to your baby.

Mercury in Fish

Even though fish is a fantastic source of nutrients for your developing baby, some fish should be limited because of the amount of naturally occurring mercury found in it.

Recommendations for pregnant women & women planning pregnancy (where 1 serve = 150 grams of fish)

  • 2 – 3 serves per week of any fish or seafood (not listed below)
  • 1 serve per week of Orange Roughy (Sea Perch) or Catfish & NO other fish that week
  • 1 serve per fortnight of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish/ Broadbill/ Marlin) & NO other fish that fortnight

For more information including recommendations for other adults and children see the FSANZ fact sheet on Mercury in Fish.


Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and foetal alcohol syndrome. It is not known whether there is a safe level of drinking in pregnancy so it’s advised that women do not drink in pregnancy.


Caffeine in small amounts in pregnancy is considered safe but in large volumes can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate as well as various ‘energy’ drinks. It’s recommended that intake of coffee is limited to a total of 200mg, which is about 2 cups per day (or 4 cups of tea).


There is no good evidence that pregnant women should avoid eating nuts to reduce the risk of nut allergy in their baby. If you have a family history of asthma, allergies or eczema you should discuss this with your health care provider.

Updated July, 2011.