Pregnant women urged to be extra vigilant when choosing food options

21 July 2008: Earlier today, safefood and the HPSC urged pregnant women to be extra vigilant when consuming certain types of food and issued advice on how to avoid the risk of listeriosis.

During 2007, 9 cases of pregnancy associated Listeria were reported in Ireland, five of these  were among women for whom English was not their first language. “Listeria is a bacterium found in many types of food”, said Dr. Thomas Quigley, Director, Science and Technical, safefood. “Infection in healthy adults usually produces no symptoms, or a mild flu-like illness. However, in certain people including unborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and elderly people, it can cause very severe illness, or even death”.
“The greatest danger is to unborn babies”, continued Dr. Quigley. “Listeriosis is most often associated with ready-to-eat, refrigerated and processed foods, such as pre-prepared  cooked and chilled meals, soft cheeses, cold cuts of meat, pâtés and smoked fish”.
The recent increase in pregnancy associated Listeria cases has primarily affected women who have recently entered Ireland from Eastern Europe, Asia and sub Saharan Africa. These groups are particularly at risk.
Dr Paul McKeown of the HPSC said  “Pregnancy is a time when expectant mothers take a lot  of care with many aspects of their lives. Simple measures such as ensuring that the fridge is in good working order with the temperature between 2-5 degrees Celsius, eating food that is well within its use-by date, so that harmful bugs will not have had time to grow and practising good general food hygiene will reduce the risk of listeriosis”.
All women who are pregnant, or who are thinking of becoming pregnant should avoid these  high risk foods, such as soft cheeses, pâté and pre-packed salads and coleslaws, until they have given birth.

safefood has produced a resource, ‘Listeria and Pregnancy’ in a number of different  languages, which contains useful information and advice on how pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies throughout the pregnancy.


For further information please contact

Kate FitzGerald or WHPR
Tel: 01 6690030, 086 3873 083 (Kate)

Fiona Gilligan
Tel: 01 4480600

Editors Notes

Protecting Yourself and Your Baby from Listeria

  • Wash  all  fruits,  vegetables  and salads thoroughly just before eating them.
  • Cook food thoroughly and serve it when it is very hot
  • Put chilled food in the food straight away
  • Eat it as soon as possible
  • Eat food before the ‘use by’ date or the ‘best before’ date
  • Make sure the fridge is set at 5 degrees Celsius or below
  • Keep cooked food and raw food away from each other