infectious disease specialist
It’s not safe to eat precooked meats such as deli meats, hot dogs, and pâté when you’re pregnant unless they’re heated until steaming hot. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis, and newborns – not moms – suffer the most serious effects of infection during pregnancy.
Listeria can cross the placental barrier or, more commonly, be transmitted in the birth canal, and it can be devastating for the baby. Every year or so, an outbreak occurs in which miscarriage, preterm delivery, or death occurs because pregnant women ate deli meat or hot dogs contaminated with listeria.
Contamination may result from improper handling, or the bacteria may already be present in the meat. But whatever the reason, unlike other bacteria, listeria grows well at refrigerator temperatures. So while we think we’re being safe by putting cold cuts in the refrigerator, this germ outsmarts us.
You should avoid getting fluid from packages of hot dogs and other meats on other foods, utensils, or food preparation areas, and be sure to wash your hands after handling hot dogs or deli meats. Listeria is also a problem in unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, and uncooked poultry. While you’re pregnant, you should stay away from cheese made from unpasteurized milk.