Health Canada

Health Canada

December 07, 2011 10:54 ET

Information Update: Reminding Pregnant Women of the Importance of Food Safety

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 7, 2011) - Health Canada is reminding women who are pregnant of the importance of food safety.

During pregnancy, both the expecting mother and the unborn child are at an increased risk for foodborne illness. This is because a woman's immune system is weakened during pregnancy, making it harder to fight off infections. The unborn baby's immune system is also not developed enough to fight off harmful foodborne bacteria. For both mother and baby, foodborne illness can cause serious health problems.

It's estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of foodborne illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

While it's always important for Canadians to follow proper food safety steps, it's especially important for women to pay close attention to food safety during pregnancy. To protect themselves and their unborn baby, pregnant women should follow the four key steps to food safety: Cook; Clean; Chill and Separate (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/ill-intox/sfp-psasa-eng.php).

Cook - Always cook food to the safe internal temperatures (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/temperatures-eng.php). You can check this by using a digital food thermometer (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/food-aliments-therm-eng.php). Colour alone is not a reliable indicator that meat is safe to eat. Meat can turn brown before all the bacteria are killed.

Clean - Properly clean anything that comes in contact with the food (your hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils, reusable grocery bags (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/reusable-bags-sacs-reutilisable-eng.php), etc.), this will help eliminate bacteria and reduce your risk of foodborne illness. In addition, fruits and vegetables (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/handling-manipulation-eng.php) should be washed under potable, running water.

Chill - It is extremely important to keep cold food cold and hot food hot so that your food never reaches the "danger temperature zone" which is between 4 and 60°C (40 and 140°F). Defrosting raw meat, poultry, and seafood (including fish or shellfish) should be done in the refrigerator, immersed in cold water or in the microwave (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/micro-f-a-eng.php), never at room temperature.

Separate - It is important to always separate your raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from ready-to-eat foods such as cooked meat and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.

Caution

Pregnant women should also pay close attention to what they are eating during their pregnancy. Some foods are at a higher risk for foodborne illness than others.

- Make sure to cook hot dogs and deli meats until they are steaming hot before eating them

- Don't eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/turkey-dinde-eng.php), and seafood (including fish and shellfish (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/shellfish-mollusques-eng.php))

- Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood (including fish and shellfish)

- Avoid unpasteurized fruit juice, cider (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/unpasteurized-pasteurises-eng.php) and milk

- Avoid soft and semi-soft cheeses made from raw or unpasteurized milk (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/raw-milk-lait-cru-eng.php)

- Avoid refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads

- Avoid foods made from raw, unpasteurized or undercooked eggs (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/eggs-oeufs-eng.php)

- Avoid raw sprouts (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/sprouts-germes-eng.php) such as alfalfa, clover, radish and mung beans

For more information on the four steps to food safety and food safety tips for pregnant women, please visit:

Government of Canada's Food Safety Tips for Women who are Pregnant (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/cons/food-aliments/safety-salubrite/pregnant-women-femmes-enceintes-eng.php )

It's Your Health on Food Safety for Pregnant Women (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/food-aliment/pregnant-enceintes-eng.php)

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada Campaign (www.befoodsafe.ca)

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