You know how doctors are always advising pregnant women not to eat soft cheese because if it's contaminated, it could cross the placenta? Fans of soft cheese are always quick to point out that incidents of food poisoning from cheese are actually quite rare ... -ish. Oh, by the way, I'm one of those people. But a recent food poisoning story is making me reconsider. Eight people have recently become ill from cheese contaminated with listeria. One of those people died. Of the illnesses, there are two pairs of mothers and newborns, plus a third newborn. In all three cases, it appears the newborns were exposed to the listeria in the womb.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) isn't saying whether it was one of the newborn babies who died. But regardless, it's enough to know the babies were ill enough to be admitted to a hospital. And I think we all know a newborn is going to have a harder time fighting off bacterial contamination than a healthy adult will. Should this one incident make pregnant women take the risk of listeria from contaminated foods more seriously?
According to the CDC, about 14 percent of cases of listeria contamination happen during pregnancy. Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely to become ill from listeria contamination than the general population. That means it's not just the baby you have to worry about (though contamination puts you at risk of miscarriage and early delivery); being pregnant makes you more vulnerable to contamination as well.
The list of foods commonly associated with listeria include under-cooked hot dogs, cold cuts, cured sausage, smoked seafood, store-made salads with ham, chicken, or seafood, raw vegetables, and yes -- soft cheeses made from unpasteurized/raw milk.
Wait, raw vegetables, too? Oy vey.
If you're concerned about food contamination and pregnancy, you should definitely consult your doctor. Nearly every OB/GYN and midwife has lists of foods you shouldn't eat and strong opinions about what's safe and what is not. When I was pregnant, I took the warnings lightly -- and I was lucky. But if I were to do it over again, I think I'd be more cautious this time.
How seriously do you take warnings about food contamination and pregnancy?
Image via Nikolas Moya/Flickr