Eat Safely this Summer – Avoid Foodborne Illness During Pregnancy

Summer means getting together outside to socialize, relax… and eat loads of good food. Pregnant or not, food safety in warmer temperatures is always a concern. The potential for danger from foodborne illness when you’re pregnant, however, is a big concern. Foodborne illness from bacteria like listeria, salmonella, and toxoplasma always increase during the summer months due to food sitting out in warmer air temperatures and food being prepared outdoors. If you’re pregnant and attending summer barbecues, picnics, potlucks, and the like, here are some ways to be safer when chowing down on Aunt Jacqui’s potato salad.    

Meat & Seafood Safety

Meat and seafood should always be cooked thoroughly to prevent foodborne illness. If you, your partner or a close family member is cooking, it may be easier to ensure the meat is cooked appropriately — you can use this chart as a temperature guideline. If you’re attending the party as a guest, however, you won’t can’t be certain the meat has been well cooked. While internal temperature reading is the only definitive way of knowing meat’s doneness, there are also visual and touch methods you can use to check the meat/seafood for doneness before eating. 

Meat that is cooked using a slow cooker, dutch oven, or pressure cooker is more likely to be cooked thoroughly due to the cooking process.

For beef that is roasted, baked or grilled, look for little to no pink and use the touch test — a well done piece of beef should feel the same as when you press your finger to your forehead. Pork and lamb that is well done can also be tested using the same finger press test. 

For poultry, you should notice “shrinkage,” which means the piece of meat is noticeably smaller than when it was raw, and if you cut into it with a sharp knife, the juices should run clear. You can also use the same touch test as described above for beef. 

Fish, which is usually transparent when raw, should appear opaque all the way through. Shrimp curls up and turns a bright pink color when cooked thoroughly. You’ll know scallops are done if the flesh bounces back when poked with a fork instead of feeling mushy.

Meat that has been left sitting out for more than 2 hours should not be consumed and should not be saved for leftovers. 

Food Handling/Preparation

Failing to wash your hands and properly wash cutting boards and knives in between food preparation is a major contributing factor to foodborne illness. Wash your hands, cutting boards, and all utensils after handling uncooked meat and seafood, as well as unwashed fruit and vegetables. Be sure to wash all fruit and vegetables before serving and cooking. 

Refrigerated Foods

Foods that are meant to be eaten cold need to stay cold. Anything that contains dairy products, as well as cold cuts, eggs, and mayonnaise-based dishes, should not be consumed after sitting out beyond 1-2 hours. Leftovers that are refrigerated within that time limit can be safely eaten later. Foods kept at a temperature of 40°F or lower will reduce your risk of food poisoning.

Other Tips

In addition to the food safety basics described above, following a couple of simple tips like eating early after arriving or when the food is set out, and sticking to foods that have a lower risk of causing illness like leafy salads, guacamole (unless it contains mayo), fresh fruit, breads, and cookies.  

 

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