Foods to avoid during pregnancy
There are some foods you should avoid eating during pregnancy because they could cause food poisoning and may contain bacteria, chemicals or parasites which could harm your unborn baby.
- Mould-ripened soft cheeses – such as Brie, Camembert and others with a similar rind, including goats’ cheese
- Soft blue-veined cheeses – such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort
Cheeses like this are made with a mould that can contain listeria bacteria that cause listeriosis. Although an infection with listeria is rare, even a mild form of this infection in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby.
- Why can’t I eat soft cheeses during pregnancy?
- Are hard cheeses safe to eat during pregnancy?
- Can I eat cooked brie and blue cheese during pregnancy?
- Is it safe to eat goats’ cheese during pregnancy?
Avoid raw or undercooked eggs and any foods that contain them, such as homemade mayonnaise.
Make sure that eggs are thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are solid. This prevents the risk of salmonella food poisoning.
Do not drink raw (unpasteurised) milk, including unpasteurised goats’ or sheep’s milk, or any food that is made of them, such as soft goats’ cheese.
If only raw or green-top milk is available, boil it first.
Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable pâtés, as they can contain listeria.
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat.
Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so there’s no trace of pink or blood. Be particularly careful with sausages and minced meat.
The latest advice from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is that pregnant women should take care when eating cold cured meats such as salami, chorizo, pepperoni and Parma ham because these meats are not cooked but cured and fermented, so they may contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites.
It’s best to check the instructions on the pack to see whether the product is ready-to-eat or needs cooking first.
For ready-to-eat meats, you can reduce any risk from parasites by freezing cured/fermented meats for four days at home before you eat them. Freezing kills most parasites, making the meat safer to eat.
Avoid liver or liver products, such as liver pâté or liver sausage, as they may contain a lot of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can harm your baby.
- high-dose multivitamin supplements
- fish liver oil supplements
- any supplements containing vitamin A
There are some types of fish you should limit, such as tuna and oily fish, and some types of fish you should avoid completely, such as shark. Also, don’t eat raw shellfish when pregnant, as it can cause food poisoning.
You should avoid drinking alcohol if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Too much exposure to alcohol can seriously affect your baby’s development.
You should limit caffeine during pregnancy – avoid having more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day. High levels of caffeine can cause babies to have a low birth weight. Too much caffeine can also cause a miscarriage. Caffeine is found naturally in some foods and is added to some soft drinks.
Reducing the risk of toxoplasmosis
Wash fruit, vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil, which may contain toxoplasma, a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. For more information, see:
- What are the risks of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy?
- Why shouldn’t I change the cat litter during pregnancy?
Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.
- How can I avoid food poisoning during pregnancy?
- Alcohol in pregnancy
- Should pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid some types of fish?
- Is it safe to eat sushi during pregnancy?
- Can I eat smoked fish and cold meats during pregnancy?
- Antenatal care
- Food poisoning
- Your pregnancy and baby guide: foods to avoid
- Your pregnancy and baby guide: have a healthy diet in pregnancy