Listeria and pregnancy

Date: 2008  


What is Listeria?

Listeria is a bug that can cause an illness like the flu. It can be dangerous for a number of groups including pregnant women, unborn babies and new babies.

A person with a Listeria infection can have symptoms such as fever, tiredness and headache. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, so you might not know you have it.

It is important to avoid getting infected with Listeria, because your unborn baby can get infected too. Even a mild illness can cause you to have a miscarriage or a premature birth or your baby to get meningitis. If you have any concerns about symptoms or illness please consult your General

How can I avoid getting infected?
You can stay safe from infection by eating freshly cooked or freshly prepared foods and avoiding foods that could contain Listeria.

Listeria can live in meat, milk, butter, cream, yogurt and vegetables. Food that is not cooked, such as salads or food from the fridge, can have Listeria in it.

Food that has been cooked before being sold can also contain Listeria.

Eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared foods

  • Eat only freshly cooked food and well-washed freshly prepared
    fruit and vegetables

Foods to avoid

  • Soft cheeses that are ripened by mould, such as Brie, Camembert,
    Stilton and Danish Blue
  • Paté made from meat, vegetables or fish*
  • Pre-packed salads, coleslaws, and ready-to-eat foods from salad bars and delicatessens.
    * Tinned paté is ok

Cook food thoroughly

  • Thorough cooking of food kills Listeria bacteria
  • Ensure food is cooked thoroughly and piping hot all the way through
  • If eating out, order hot meals

Foods to eat only if they are home cooked or reheated fully

  • Smoked fish, such as salmon
  • Chilled pre-cooked meat, such as ham, chicken, spam
  • Cured and smoked meats, such as salami and Parma ham
  • Cooked chilled meals that are ready to eat
  • Unpasteurised milk and food made from unpasteurised milk

How can I protect myself and my baby from Listeria?


Wash all fruit, vegetables and salad fully just before you eat them.


Cook food right through and serve it when it is still very hot.


Make sure that your fridge is at 5°C or below. Put chilled food in the fridge straight away and eat it as soon as possible.

Throw out food that has passed the ‘use by’ or the ‘best before’ date.


Keep cooked food and raw food away from each other.

Where can I go for more information?

If you are worried or have any questions, talk to your doctor.