Your Pregnancy - - Q&A Month 2 -

Q: I’m two months preg­nant and so wor­ried about this lis­te­rio­sis thing that has been in the news lately. I’ve read that preg­nant women should not eat deli meat, but I don’t even know what that means, so I’ve been avoid­ing all meat, but surely that can’t be good ei­ther. Please tell me what to do, and what in­for­ma­tion I can trust and what I can eat or not when it comes to meat. Is chicken also af­fected? A: Sis­ter Burgie answers: Preg­nancy is a good rea­son to be wor­ried about the lis­te­rio­sis out­break. Lis­te­ria mono­cy­to­genes are bac­te­ria that’s found ev­ery­where – in the ground, wa­ter and an­i­mals in­clud­ing cat­tle, unpasteurised milk and chicken. Meat and milk pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries have to main­tain high stan­dards of clean­li­ness so that bac­te­ria (in­clud­ing lis­te­ria) do not con­tam­i­nate ma­chin­ery that in turn, cross-con­tam­i­nate pro­cessed meats and cheeses (those that use raw or unpasteurised milk) and ul­ti­mately in­fect con­sumers. The body’s im­mune sys­tem is con­stantly under at­tack by en­vi­ron­men­tal mi­crobes. Saliva and strong stom­ach acid helps to kill a bac­terium be­fore it can make peo­ple sick. But when there’s an out­break of an in­fec­tious dis­ease, and a per­son’s im­mune sys­tem is weak­ened, like dur­ing preg­nancy, be­com­ing in­fected can be dan­ger­ous – even fa­tal. Lis­te­rio­sis has re­cently been found in polony, hot-dog sausages and chicken through­out South Africa but mostly in Gaut­eng. Be­cause this bac­terium is re­sis­tant to cold tem­per­a­tures, it can mul­ti­ply in fridges and cold-stor­age fa­cil­i­ties and spread from con­tam­i­nated food to ma­chin­ery and equip­ment, from pack­ages to kitchen sur­faces and un­con­tam­i­nated food that’s kept in the fridge. Un­like vi­ral in­fec­tions that are most dan­ger­ous dur­ing the first trimester (three months) lis­te­rio­sis is dan­ger­ous for an un­born baby through­out a woman’s preg­nancy. In­fected preg­nant women may only have mild symp­toms of food poi­son­ing, such as vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea and ab­dom­i­nal cramps (or not feel sick at all) – but the in­fec­tion can cause se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions for her un­born baby. These in­clude mis­car­riage or still­birth, pre­ma­tu­rity, a small-for-dates baby or neona­tal sep­sis. What you can do: See your doc­tor if you have a tummy bug with any di­ar­rhoea, vom­it­ing or flu-like symp­toms. Lis­te­rio­sis is treated with an­tibi­otics.

Avoid high-risk foods

Hot dogs, polony and all cold meats Soft cheeses made with unpasteurised milk Meat spreads and pâtés Re­frig­er­ated and smoked seafood (un­less it can be boiled e.g. kip­pers) Only eat cooked food and food that looks, smells and tastes good. Food should be cooked right through, and served still hot.

Keep your kitchen lis­te­ria-free

Wash cook­ing uten­sils, crock­ery and cut­lery in hot soapy wa­ter af­ter us­ing. Scrub cut­ting boards and wipe kitchen sur­faces with a dis­in­fec­tant. Bleach can be di­luted one tea­spoon­ful for ev­ery one litre of wa­ter. Soak dish­cloths and kitchen tow­els in di­luted bleach. Wash fruit and veg­eta­bles. Sep­a­rate raw and cooked foods in your fridge to pre­vent cross­con­tam­i­na­tion. Avoid cross-con­tam­i­na­tion by cov­er­ing left­over food in the fridge and eat it within two days. Make sure that all food is re­heated un­til it is very hot or boil­ing. If you have a ther­mome­ter, check the temperature of re­heated food. It should be above 74 de­grees Cel­sius.


Keep fridge temperature at 4°C and freezer at -18°C. Wipe fridge spills im­me­di­ately. Clean your fridge reg­u­larly.

When you go shop­ping

Check sell-by dates. Don’t buy cold-meat or sausages on spe­cial. Use pre-cooked and ready-to-eat meals on the day you bought them. If you’re wor­ried that you bought con­tam­i­nated meat or chicken, throw away your plas­tic shop­ping bags and wash linen bags.

When pre­par­ing food

Wash your hands be­fore cook­ing, af­ter us­ing the loo and be­fore eat­ing.

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