Fruit Listeria and Pregnancy: When to Worry


Fruit is normally not on the list of foods pregnant women should avoid, however, a recent recall has some mothers-to-be wondering just how healthy their peaches, plums and nectarines really are. In most cases fruit is one of the more healthy options recommended by doctors and nutritionists, however, in this instance there is cause for concern. Purchasing and consuming fresh produce usually comes with very little guidance on how to prepare it and how often it should be ingested. As long as the produce is washed before it is eaten and has not yet begun to spoil, pregnant women have had little reason to avoid it. Pregnancy is a time when many women begin to worry about things that normally would not concern them, however, with the mention of listeria on fruit, people, pregnant women especially, are on high alert. In order to watch for symptoms and avoid potential hazards there are some key indicators to be aware of and some simple avoidance tactics that may help to ensure the health and safety of pregnant women and their babies.

It is not so much the fruit that is the problem, though in this particular case it is, but the word “listeria” that has pregnant women worried. Listeria is something that pregnant are warned against by their doctor as soon as the pregnancy is verified as it is uncomfortable for the expectant mother and often-times fatal to the fetus. According to the Center for Disease Control: “’Listeria’ or ‘Listeriosis’ is a serious infection most often caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.” Though it is not often dangerous to the average person it is highly unsafe for pregnant women, their unborn babies as well as newborns.

Once Listeria poisoning has been contracted by a pregnant woman, she will experience many uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea, fever and continuous upset stomach. Though it is difficult to decipher whether the symptoms are due to listeria or the myriad other forms of nausea that often go with pregnancy the mommy-to-be might want to give her doctor a call. It is also fair to note that the American Pregnancy Association says it is most common among pregnant women in their third trimester, so that could be used as an indicator as well.

Unborn babies run the most severe risks associated with Listeria poisoning.  As explained by experts at the Mayo Clinic: “The consequences for the baby however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.”  While this all sounds grim, and it certainly can be, as the instances of death in newborns infected with the disease in utero is about half, there are measures pregnant women can take to ensure the health of their baby and ease their own mind.

Avoiding foods most commonly associated with Listeria poisoning like deli meats, soft cheeses and anything unpasteurized is a start. Unpasteurized means that the product did not go through the sterilization that makes it safe for all to eat or drink. Raw milk, for example, is not pasteurized. Pregnant women are usually warned about uncooked deli meats and soft cheeses like goat cheese, but peaches, plums and nectarines are new to the list, and for many, unexpected. In the wake of the recent recall pregnant women are advised, at the very least, to avoid the identified outlets and types of produce directly associated with the recall. Since the occurrence of Listeria in fruit is rare, but still very dangerous for pregnant women, they are about 20 percent more susceptible to being infected, it is advisable to seek medical attention right away if there is any worry. However, unless there has been a direct warning issued for a particular grocery store or distribution company then the consensus seems to be: let them eat fruit!

By Heather Everett (Pomper)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mayo Clinic

American Pregnancy Association

Health of Children

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