What Not To Eat

Food safety in pregnancy - Fish, listeria and toxoplasmosis


Fish is encouraged as it contains omega 3 fatty acids (good for the brain). Eat up to 3 serves (150g) a week of any fish, tuna or seafood except the following fish as they will generally contain higher levels of mercury which is associated with developmental delay in infants:

  • shark (flake), broadbill, swordfish, marlin - one serve of these fish should be eaten no more frequently than once a fortnight and no other fish that fortnight.
  • orange roughy (sea perch), catfish - one serve of these fish should be eaten no more frequently than once a week and no other fish that week.


Listeria (a form of bacteria) can contaminate food and cause infection which in pregnancy can cause:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • premature birth
  • a baby that is very sick at birth

Symptoms in adults range from mild (fever, headaches, tiredness, aches and pains) to severe (septicemia, meningitis) but note that it is very rare.

To reduce the chance of getting listeria wash hands, cooking areas and tools, wash raw vegetables and fruit, refrigerate leftover food and reheat to piping hot (heat kills listeria), and avoid:

  • soft cheeses and feta (brie, ricotta)
  • pate, deli meats, sandwich shop chicken
  • uncooked or smoked seafood (eg sushi)
  • unpasteurised milk
  • soft-serve ice-cream
  • pre-prepared salads incl coleslaw


Cat poo and cat litter can contain the toxoplasmosis parasite which should be avoided (wear gloves and wash hands). Also always cook meat thoroughly and wash salad vegetables.


By following these simple steps you can reduce the risk to yourself and your unborn child. You should ask your specialist obstetrician if you are in doubt whether a particular food has known risks to your pregnancy.

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