Listeria risk in pregnancy

Listeria Exposure During Pregnancy

Listeria risk in pregnancy

At your first prenatal visit, your health care provider ly talked with you about all the foods you should avoid during pregnancy — sushi, raw meat, deli meat and unpasteurized cheese — to prevent exposure to listeria.

That's because consuming this bacteria can sometimes make you sick, and that extremely unly possibility becomes more ly when you're expecting. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to greatly reduce your risk.

Here's how, along with what happens if you think you've been exposed.

What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is an illness caused by eating foods contaminated with the listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Keep in mind that simply being exposed to listeria, however, doesn't mean you'll develop an infection. In fact, most women who are exposed to listeria will not develop a listeriosis infection. 

The risk of listeriosis during pregnancy

While the odds of being infected with listeriosis is still very, very low, it is significantly (13 times) higher during pregnancy — and the potential of its causing problems in pregnancy is higher.

Listeria, un many other germs, enters the bloodstream directly and therefore can get to the baby quickly through the placenta (other food contaminants generally stay in the digestive tract).

And an untreated infection can put baby at increased risk of more serious complications, including miscarriage, preterm labor, stillbirth or meningitis in newborns.

Symptoms of listeriosis

Listeriosis can be hard to detect, partly because symptoms can develop up to two months after eating contaminated food and can vary from severe to mild. If you think you may have eaten food that contains listeria, watch for flu- symptoms including:

  • Fever over 100.6°F
  • Muscle pain
  • Backache
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea

Note that you may have fever only, or you might not have any symptoms at all. So it's important to contact your doctor even if you think what you're experiencing might be caused by something else.

If you think you've been exposed to listeria

In many cases, a watch-and-wait approach for symptoms is all that's necessary.

If you're experiencing symptoms and your doctor suspects a listeriosis infection, he may order blood or other various tests to check for the bacteria and monitor your baby's health. If you have been infected, you'll get a prescription for antibiotics. 

What should you do to protect yourself

One of the best ways to prevent listeriosis is to avoid foods that are most ly to be contaminated. These include:

  • Hot dogs, lunch meats or cold cuts that are cold or heated lower than 165 degrees
  • Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads
  • Refrigerated, smoked seafood ( smoked salmon)
  • Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses ( feta, queso blanco, Brie and blue-veined cheeses)
  • Unpasteurized fresh fruit juice and veggie juice (if you're not sure whether a juice has been pasteurized, don't drink it)
  • Unwashed, raw produce
  • Alfalfa and other sprouts

A few more tips to stay safe:

  • Always wash produce (including those organic blueberries from the farmer's market) thoroughly in running tap water, even if you're planning to peel or cook it. 
  • As a precaution, even ready-cooked meats should be heated to steaming before eating.
  • When eating out, watch for signs that the restaurant doesn't follow basic sanitation rules (and it should be pretty obvious): Perishable foods are kept at room temperature, the bathrooms are unclean, it's open season for flies, etc.

Unfortunately it's impossible to know for sure if the food you buy today will be recalled tomorrow — making it impossible to avoid listeria entirely. That said, the risk of contracting the infection from day-to-day eating is extremely low, even if you are expecting. So try not to let worries about possible food contamination consume you. Instead, spend your energy focusing on what you can do: Eat a balanced, healthy pregnancy diet to help support you and your growing baby.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Listeria (Listeriosis), December 2016
  • National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Listeriosis in Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention, 2008
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Management of Pregnant Women With Presumptive Exposure to Listeria monocytogenes, December 2014
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Listeria (Listeriosis) Questions and Answers, December 2016.
  •, Listeria, March 2019.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Food Safety for Pregnant Women, September 2011.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Listeria and Pregnancy, June 2018.
  • National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus, Listeria Infections, April 2018.
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5th Edition, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.
  •, Smart Shopping and Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, October 2018.


Listeriosis During Pregnancy

Listeria risk in pregnancy

Pregnant women are told time and again: Don’t eat raw meat, avoid unpasteurized cheese, steer clear of deli counter salads. Why? You can largely blame listeriosis, a foodborne illness that doesn’t pose much risk for mom but can be harmful for baby. Find out what causes listeriosis, what your odds are of contracting it and the steps you can take to prevent it.

Technically speaking, listeriosis is an infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Practically speaking, listeriosis is a type of food poisoning that can cause pregnancy complications.

Listeria bacteria are found in soil, water and sewage, but they can also contaminate food—so if you eat something that’s been contaminated with listeria, you can develop listeriosis.

The listeria bacteria is killed with heating and pasteurization, so listeriosis is usually linked to eating uncooked meats or vegetables, raw or unpasteurized milk products, or processed foods (such as hot dogs and deli meat) that become contaminated after being cooked at the food processing facility.  

Listeriosis can make people feel sick, but rarely causes severe health problems. What’s scary for moms-to-be, however, is that having it during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm birth. Babies of moms who had listeriosis during pregnancy are also at risk for listeria infection.

How Common Is Listeriosis During Pregnancy?

Wondering what are the odds of getting listeriosis while pregnant? Good news—they’re very low. It’s true that pregnant women have an increased risk of contracting listeriosis, but the real risk is still tiny.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 1,600 cases of listeriosis in the United States each year.

But only about one in seven cases—or about 200 cases per year—occur in pregnant women, nearly 4 million pregnancies every year.

“You’re much more ly to step outside and slip on ice on your front steps in the winter than you are to contract listeria,” says Kelly Kasper, MD, ob-gyn and associate clinical professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. And if you do get listeria, baby might not— transmission of listeriosis from mom to baby is not a sure thing. Plus, listeria infections are easily treatable with antibiotics.

How Do You Know If You Have Listeriosis?

“The symptoms of a listeria infection look a lot a  cold or mild flu,” Kasper says. “The most common symptom is a fever. You might also have  muscle aches or a sore throat.” Some people also have diarrhea. 

Because the symptoms are so nonspecific, it’s impossible to tell if you have listeriosis solely symptoms.

That’s why doctors tell pregnant women to contact their health care provider if they’re running a fever—not because they’re always worried about listeriosis, but because fever is a symptom of all kinds of ailments, many of which should be diagnosed and treated right away. The only way to figure out if your symptoms pose a threat to you or baby is to have them checked out by a qualified health care provider.

So how do you test for listeria in pregnancy? If your doctor suspects listeriosis—if you have symptoms of listeriosis and have recently eaten some suspect food, for instance—she can order a simple blood test to determine if you have listeriosis or not.

How Does Listeriosis Affect Baby?

Listeriosis increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery and listeriosis infection once baby is born, but the odds of anything bad happening to baby are slim. Here’s why:

• Listeria infection can spread from mom to baby through the placenta, but it’s not a sure thing. So even if you get listeriosis, baby might not. The antibiotics used to treat listeriosis during pregnancy can prevent infection of the fetus.

• Antibiotics can also be used to treat (and prevent complications of) listeriosis in newborns. While listeriosis in babies can cause severe blood infections, meningitis, pneumonia and even death, treatment with antibiotics can resolve the infection and usually prevent complications.

How To Prevent Listeriosis During Pregnancy

If you want to decrease your risk of getting listeriosis to almost zero, you can follow the official listeriosis prevention guidelines and avoid eating the following during pregnancy:

  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk products
  • Cold (or room temp)  deli meats or hot dogs (they’re fine if they’re heated to steaming hot)
  • Prepared deli counter salads, such as egg salad, tuna salad and seafood salad

Or you can take a slightly more relaxed approach. Given the extreme improbability of contracting listeriosis from properly handled foods, Kasper suggests eating food you’ve prepared yourself and following common sense guidelines when you prep and store it:

Store foods safely. Make sure your refrigerator is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and return items to the fridge as soon as possible after using. Don’t let foods sit out for long periods at room temperature.

Wash fruits and vegetables. Rinse any raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating.

Pay attention to expiration dates. If your lunch meat is past its expiration date (or if it smells or looks funny), throw it away. 

“You want to be smart about listeria and keep yourself healthy. But at the same time, you don’t want to quit living,” Kasper says.

“There are some things that we know are very important, common and threatening to a pregnancy, influenza—that’s why we recommend the flu shot. Listeriosis is very uncommon.

You don’t have to put yourself in a plastic bubble because you’re afraid of what might happen.”


Listeria And Pregnancy

Listeria risk in pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is important to be aware of what you put inside your body. You should be aware of what is good to eat and also what is not so good to eat.

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found in some contaminated foods. Listeria can cause problems for both you and your baby.

Although listeriosis (the illness from ingesting Listeria) is rare, pregnant women are more susceptible to it than non-pregnant healthy adults.

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that is found in water and soil. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil, and animals can also be carriers.

Listeria has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, unpasteurized milk, foods made from unpasteurized milk, and processed foods. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking.

There is a chance that contamination may occur in ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats because contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging.1

What are the risks of a pregnant woman getting listeriosis?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1,700 persons become seriously ill each year in the United States and among these, 260 will die.

Although the CDC states that pregnant women are 20 times more ly to become infected than non-pregnant healthy adults, the number of cases of listeriosis in pregnant women is about 17%.

How will I know if I have listeriosis?

Symptoms of listeriosis may show up 2-30 days after exposure. Symptoms in pregnant women include mild flu- symptoms, headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause a stiff neck, disorientation, or convulsions. Infection can occur at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common during the third trimester when your immune system is somewhat suppressed.

Be sure to contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms. A blood test can confirm an infection from listeriosis.

Will this harm my baby?

If you are pregnant and are infected with listeriosis, you are at an increased risk of :

Early treatment with antibiotics may prevent fetal infection and other severe fetal complications. Not all babies whose mothers are infected will have any problems related to listeriosis.

How is it treated?

Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. These antibiotics, in most cases, will prevent infection to the fetus and newborn. These same antibiotics are also given to newborns with listeriosis.

What can I do to protect my baby from listeriosis?

Following these guidelines can greatly reduce your chances of contracting Listeriosis:

  • Eat hard cheeses instead of soft cheeses: The CDC has recommended that pregnant women avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican style cheeses such as queso fresco, queso blanco, and panela that do not state they are pasteurized. Hard cheeses such as cheddar and semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella are safe to consume. Pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads such as cream cheese and cottage cheese can also be safely consumed. The most important thing to do is to read the labels!
  • Be cautious when eating hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they are properly reheated to steaming (or 160 degrees F.): Eating out at certain restaurants that provide deli meat sandwiches is not recommended for pregnant women since they do not reheat their deli meats. Restaurants such as Subway recommends that pregnant women eat the following non-luncheon meat items such as meatball, steak and cheese, roasted chicken, and tuna (limit 2 servings a week).
  • Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole.

Practice safe food handling:

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables
  • Keep everything clean including your hands and preparation surfaces
  • Keep your refrigerator thermometer at 40 degrees or below
  • Clean your refrigerator often
  • Avoid cross-contamination between raw and uncooked foods (this includes hot dog juices)
  • Cook foods at proper temperatures (use food thermometers) and reheat all foods until they are steaming hot (or 160 F)

Proper Temperatures for Cooking Foods:

  • Chicken: 165-180 F
  • Egg Dishes: 160 F
  • Ground Meat: 160-165 F
  • Beef, Medium well: 160 F
  • Beef, Well Done: 170 F (not recommended to eat any meat cooked rare)
  • Pork: 160-170 F
  • Ham (raw): 160 F
  • Ham (precooked): 140 F

Refrigerate or freeze food promptly.

For more information on food safety and prevention of food-borne illnesses such as listeria you can contact:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Foodborne Illness Line(24 hr recorded information)1-888-232-3228


Listeria Infection (Listeriosis)

Listeria risk in pregnancy

This sheet talks about exposure to listeriosis in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your healthcare provider.

What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is an infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, often called just Listeria. Listeriosis is typically caused by eating food that has been contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can be found in your home, in restaurants and other places such as the grocery store or food processing plants.

Food with listeria can introduce the infection into the refrigerator which can spread to other foods. Listeria can continue to live in cold temperatures, such as in the refrigerator, but the chance for spreading can be slowed if the refrigerator is kept at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Some of the foods that are more ly to be contaminated with Listeria include unpasteurized (raw) milk, uncooked meat and fish, uncooked vegetables, lunch meat and soft cheeses. However, the largest recent outbreak occurred in cantaloupes.

Who is at risk for listeriosis?

The people most vulnerable to listeriosis include: pregnant women, young children, adults over the age of 60, and people with weakened immune systems. Following some simple food safety guidelines can reduce the chance of listeriosis.

What precautions should I take to avoid the infection?

To decrease the risk of listeriosis and other food-borne illness in all individuals:

  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk (also called raw milk) or eat any foods made with unpasteurized milk.
  • Thoroughly cook raw foods from animal sources.
  • Heat foods to at least 165°F (to steaming), to kill the bacterium.
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruit, even if you plan to peel them (to remove skin).
  • Separate uncooked meats from cooked meats and vegetables.
  • Wash your hands, cutting boards, knives, counters, and sinks after contact with uncooked foods.
  • Consume ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
  • Keep your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.

Pregnant women should take additional precautions to decrease the risk of listeriosis:

  • Do not eat soft cheeses (such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela) unless they have labels stating that they are made from pasteurized milk. However, it should be noted that some Mexican style cheeses made from pasteurized milk have been a source of Listeria infections possibly due to the cheese making process.
  • Reheat, to at least 165°F / to steaming, any leftovers, ready-to-eat foods, hot dogs, cold cuts, deli meat, frozen vegetables and frozen prepared foods.
  • Take care to not get the juice of deli meats and hot dogs on other foods/surfaces and wash your hands after handling deli meats and hot dogs.
  • Do not eat pâté, meat spreads or refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is an ingredient in a fully cooked dish ( a casserole).
  • Avoid ready to eat salads.

How do I know if I’ve been infected with Listeria?

Not everyone affected with Listeria will develop symptoms. Symptoms of listeriosis range from showing no symptoms to having diarrhea, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, stiff neck, backache, chills, sensitivity to bright light, and/or sore throat with fever and swollen glands.

These symptoms can begin days to weeks after eating contaminated food. A blood test can confirm whether you have been infected with listeriosis. If you have eaten contaminated food and do not have symptoms, some experts feel no special testing or treatment is needed.

Be sure to discuss this with your health care provider.

I am pregnant and have been infected with Listeria. Will this affect my pregnancy or the baby?

Listeria infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, uterine infection and preterm delivery. Listeriosis has not been linked to a pattern of birth defects.

Listeriosis during pregnancy can also increase the chance for serious health problems for the newborn. Newborn babies infected with Listeria can develop either early onset or late onset listeriosis.

Early onset listeriosis develops 1-2 days after birth, and the baby often has signs of a serious bacterial infection. Late onset listeriosis occurs 1-2 weeks after birth, and usually includes symptoms of meningitis.

Late onset listeriosis is most ly related to Listeria present in the mother’s birth canal.

Not all babies whose mothers are infected during pregnancy will have problems due to listeriosis. Early diagnosis and treatment with high doses of antibiotics might prevent infection of the unborn.

Are there any treatments for listeriosis during pregnancy?

Yes, large doses of antibiotics have been recommended. Therapy for maternal listeriosis with high doses of antibiotics has resulted in successful therapy, leading to lower incidences of premature deliveries and stillbirths. Your healthcare providers will talk with you about the right treatment for your pregnancy.

Is there any way to know if the baby has been infected or harmed by listeriosis?

An ultrasound to look at the baby can be used to check for an enlarged heart, thickened bowel, and increased thickness of the stomach walls, which may occur in some babies infected with Listeria. A blood test can be performed on the baby after birth to detect whether the baby has been infected with Listeria.

Can Listeria be passed to the baby through breast milk?

It is unknown if listeria can be transmitted through breastmilk. If you have been diagnosed with listeria and are breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare provider.

Does it matter if the baby’s father was exposed to Listeria before I got pregnant?

There is no evidence linking paternal exposure to Listeria with a higher chance of infection during pregnancy. In general, exposures that fathers have are unly to increase risks to a pregnancy. For more information, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet on Paternal Exposures at

Please click here for references.


Listeria risk in pregnancy

Listeria risk in pregnancy

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause a serious illness (listeriosis) in pregnant women.

Listeria bacteria are widely found in dust, soil, water, plants, sewage and animal droppings. Listeria monocytogenes is a specific type of Listeria that can cause infection in humans (listeriosis), mainly through contaminated food.

Who is at risk?

Pregnant women, their babies, people with a lowered immune system and the elderly are most at risk from listeria infection. Almost all other people are not harmed by it. Listeria monocytogenes can be transmitted by eating infected food. The bacteria have been found in a variety of foods at all stages of preparation, and can still grow on food that is stored in a fridge.

Although pregnant women are at increased risk from Listeria infection, it’s important to remember that the risk of listeriosis in Australia is low, and that there are simple steps you can take to avoid infection while still eating a balanced, healthy diet.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis in pregnant women?

Listeriosis may cause no symptoms at all or you may feel you have a mild dose of the flu.

Symptoms may include:

  • mild fever;
  • headache;
  • diarrhoea;
  • nausea;
  • aches and pains in your joints and muscles; or
  • a mild cough or cold.

Some women can become very sick with listeriosis and have a very high temperature.

Listeria can also sometimes cause an infection of the brain (encephalitis) or meningitis, causing symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and seizures.

Fortunately, serious listeriosis in pregnant women and their babies remains a rare condition; however, it is possible that many milder cases go unnoticed.

Pregnancy complications

If a pregnant woman develops listeriosis, it can cause miscarriage, premature labour, or a stillbirth.

Listeriosis in newborns

Newborn babies who develop listeriosis can develop a chest infection, blood poisoning (sepsis), or an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain (meningitis).

When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms, or if you are concerned that you may have eaten a contaminated food (such as a food that has been recalled due to listeria contamination).

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They will also ask about the foods you have recently eaten.

A blood test can be used to determine whether you have listeriosis.


Early treatment with antibiotics can help prevent complications of listeriosis in pregnant women.

Babies with listeriosis can also be treated with antibiotics.

How do I avoid listeriosis?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important during pregnancy. Making informed and sensible food choices reduces the risk of listeria infection.

The following foods should be safe to eat during pregnancy.

  • Most foods that have been thoroughly cooked (until piping hot) and eaten straight away.
  • Vegetables and fruit that have been well washed and cut up at home.
  • All tinned foods.
  • Breads and cereals (without added mock creams or custards).
  • Dried food (such as fruit, nuts, lentils, beans).
  • Pasteurised milk.
  • Pasteurised cheeses. Cream cheese and plain cottage cheese are safe.

Do not eat the following foods in pregnancy

The following foods should be avoided during pregnancy.

  • Chilled, pre-cooked seafood products, unless re-heated as above and eaten hot.
  • Pâté, pre-cooked chicken, ham and other chilled pre-cooked meat products.
  • Sliced, ready-to-eat cold meats (either packaged or from a deli or sandwich bar).
  • Uncooked seafood, such as oysters, sushi, sashimi or smoked salmon.
  • Stored salads and coleslaws, especially from delicatessens or supermarkets.
  • Pre-cut fruit and un-pasteurised juices.
  • Seed sprouts.
  • Raw (unpasteurised) milk or foods made from raw milk.
  • Soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses, such as brie, camembert, feta, ricotta or blue veined cheeses.
  • Soft-serve ice cream and any products containing this type of ice cream, such as some thick shakes.

Safe ways to handle food at home

Follow these tips on safe food handling to reduce Listeria risk.

  • Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods. Uncooked meats should also be well wrapped or covered.
  • Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards thoroughly with hot water and soap after handling uncooked foods.
  • Promptly refrigerate left-over food and use within one to 2 days.
  • Cook left-over foods or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs, until steaming hot before eating. (Food should be reheated to at least 74 degrees Celsius for 2 minutes to kill Listeria bacteria.)
  • When using a microwave, take special care to heat foods all the way through until they are piping hot.
  • Wash all fresh food carefully before eating it.

Do I need to avoid certain foods while breast feeding?

After you have had your baby you are no longer at increased risk of listeriosis, and there is no evidence that listeria can be passed to babies through breast feeding. So you don’t need to restrict your diet once your baby is born.


1. NSW Food Authority. Listeria and pregnancy (Jan 2014). (accessed Feb 2016).
2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Listeria and food (updated Jul 2012). (accessed Feb 2016).
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Listeriosis (Listeria) and Pregnancy (updated 1 Dec 2011). (accessed Feb 2016).


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Listeria: Frequently Asked Questions

“What isListeria monocytogenes?”

It's a harmful bacterium that can be found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods (meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy – unpasteurized milk and milk products or foods made with unpasteurized milk), and produce harvested from soil contaminated with L. monocytogenes.

Many animals can carry this bacterium without appearing ill, and thus, it can be found in foods made from animals. L. monocytogenes is unusual because it can grow at refrigerator temperatures where most other foodborne bacteria do not.

When eaten, it may cause listeriosis, an illness to which pregnant women and their unborn children are very susceptible.

“How could I get listeriosis?”

By eating ready-to-eat meats, poultry, seafood, and dairy products that are contaminated with L. monocytogenes. You can also get listeriosis by eating contaminated foods processed or packaged in unsanitary conditions or by eating fruits and vegetables that are contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer.

“How could listeriosis affect me?”

The symptoms can take a few days or even weeks to appear and may include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea or upset stomach, headache, stiff neck, confusion, and loss of balance. In more serious cases, listeriosis could also lead to the mother's death.

Most of the time, pregnant women who are infected with listeriosis don't feel sick. However, they can pass the infection to their unborn babies without even knowing it. That's why prevention of listeriosis is very important.

In any case, if you experience any of the above symptoms, see your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.


  • Pregnant women are about 10 times more ly to get listeriosis than other healthy adults.
  • An estimated 1/6 of all Listeria cases occur in pregnant women.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

“How could listeriosis affect my baby?”

During the first trimester of pregnancy, listeriosis may cause miscarriage. As the pregnancy progresses to third trimester, the mother is more at risk. Listeriosis can also lead to premature labor, the delivery of a low-birth-weight infant, or infant death.

Fetuses who have a late infection may develop a wide range of health problems, including intellectual disability, paralysis, seizures, blindness, or impairments of the brain, heart, or kidney. In newborns, L.

monocytogenes can cause blood infections and meningitis.

Studies show that pregnant Hispanic women may have a higher incidence of listeriosis than pregnant non-Hispanic women. This is most ly because they might make and eat homemade soft cheese and other traditional foods made from unpasteurized milk.

“Queso fresco”- a traditional homemade cheese, prepared from unpasteurized milk and widely consumed by Hispanics – has led to miscarriages, death of newborns, and premature delivery caused by L. monocytogenes.

To prevent the risk of listeriosis, Hispanic pregnant women should not eat homemade soft cheeses and other traditional foods made from unpasteurized milk. all other pregnant women, they should follow the food safety precautions outlined below.

“How can I prevent listeriosis?”

The good news is that listeriosis can be prevented! Here's how…

Time to Chill

  • Your refrigerator should register at 40° F (4° C) or below and the freezer at 0° F (-18° C). Place a refrigerator thermometer in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically. During the automatic defrost cycle, the temperature may temporarily register slightly higher than 40° F. This is okay.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within two hours of eating or preparation. Follow the 2-Hour Rule: Discard food that's left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. When temperatures are above 90° F (32° C), discard food after 1 hour.
  • Use ready-to-eat, perishable foods, such as dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, and produce, as soon as possible.

Fridge TIPS

  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.

  • Wipe up spills immediately.

  • Clean the inside walls and shelves with hot water and a mild liquid dishwashing detergent; then rinse.

  • Once a week, check expiration and “use by” dates, and throw out foods if the date has passed. Follow the recommended storage times for foods.

Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart (PDF).

To Eat or Not to Eat?

Don't eat:

  • Hot dogs, deli meats, and luncheon meats – unless they're reheated until steaming hot.

  • Soft cheeses Feta, Brie, and Camembert, “blue-veined cheeses,” or “queso blanco,” “queso fresco,” or Panela – unless they're made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says, “made with pasteurized milk.”

  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads.

  • Refrigerated smoked seafood – unless it's in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. (Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” These types of fish are found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.)

  • Raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods that contain unpasteurized milk.

It's okay to eat:

  • Canned or shelf-stable (able to be stored unrefrigerated on the shelf) pâtés and meat spreads.
  • Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood.
  • Pasteurized milk or foods that contain pasteurized milk.

Note: See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have questions about listeriosis.