What Listeria Food Recalls Mean for Pregnant Women

Listeria Recalls During Pregnancy

Sabra Dipping Co. announced the recall of many of its beloved hummus products on November 21, 2016.  Time Magazine reported that the recall resulted from a possible listeria contamination that occurred at the facility in which Sabra products were manufactured.  It is instructed that customers avoid ingesting Sabra products with a “Best Before” date of January 23, 2017.  They did not include Sabra Salsa, Sabra Guacamole, Sabra Organic Hummus, and Sabra Greek Yogurt Dips on the list of recalled items.  

The Sabra Hummus food recall is not the only food recall that has occurred as a result of listeria contamination.  In early May of 2016, over 350 frozen food products sold through 42 separate brands were recalled for listeria as well, according to the CDC.  This extensive list of frozen fruits and vegetables sold all across America and Canada had in common their production facility in Pasco, Washington, where the listeria bacteria was confirmed to be present.

Listeria during pregnancy

Image by James Palisade; CC 2.0

Both instances involved the contamination of production facilities with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria which can infect anyone who ingests it.  According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women, however, are more at risk of getting infected with the bacteria, and face more risks from the infection than healthy, non-pregnant people.  These risks can affect both mother and baby.

Listeriosis, the infection from the listeria bacteria, has common flu-like symptoms in pregnant women.  They can experience nausea, vomiting, fever, muscle aches, and headaches at first, and if the infection spreads, convulsions, stiff neck, and disorientation.  If you are pregnant and experience any of these symptoms, it is advised that you speak with your doctor about them immediately.

Pregnant women should be on the look-out for symptoms of listeriosis because the infection also poses many threats to the baby during pregnancy.  According to the FDA, listeriosis can cause miscarriage if the infection takes place in the first trimester, or other issues if the infection occurs later on: low-birth weight in the newborn, premature birth, or infant death.  Post-birth, the effects of listeriosis infection on a new baby can still be present, often appearing in the form of meningitis, blood infections, seizures, paralysis, mental impairments, blindness, heart or kidney impairments, or intellectual disability.

Because listeria outbreaks like the ones above can happen, it’s important that pregnant women listen to their bodies and take necessary precautions.  The American Pregnancy Association offers a useful list of guidelines for the avoidance of listeriosis in pregnant women.  They note key foods to avoid during pregnancy, including:

  • Deli meats and hot dogs which have not been properly cooked
  • Pates and meat spreads
  • Smoked seafood
  • Soft cheeses that may not be pasteurized

The Food Safety website offers other helpful guidelines for avoiding listeria.  They advise people  to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them, cook foods to safe temperatures, wash hands, countertops, and tools after handling uncooked foods, and follow other rules for food preparation.  

Resources on Pregnancy Diets, Listeriosis, and More:

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