Note on Fish Advice
On January 18, 2017, FDA and EPA issued final advice regarding fish consumption.
This advice is geared toward helping women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children – make informed choices when it comes to fish that are healthy and safe to eat. (This advice refers to fish and shellfish collectively as “fish.”)
For more information, see Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know.
The following content will be updated to reflect the final advice on consuming fish. Please check back for updates or sign-up to receive updates by email.
Whether you're hosting or attending a shower, pot-luck dinner, birthday party, school fair, or other social event - they all involve food! Enjoy these events while keeping your unborn baby safe from foodborne bacteria. Use these tips to help you select, prepare, and handle food safely year-round!
Preventing foodborne illness is easy as...
1. Clean - Wash hands and surfaces often.
2. Separate - Don't cross-contaminate.
3. Cook - Cook to proper temperatures.
4. Chill - Refrigerate promptly.
For more information about the 4 Simple Steps to Food Safety, see Lifelong Food Safety.
Safe Food Handling for Social Events
Make food safety the center of your entertaining activities during your pregnancy and beyond!
4 Steps to Safe Food Shopping
- Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and your grocery bags. Raw juices from these foods can contain harmful bacteria, which can spread to other foods. Consider placing these raw foods inside plastic bags to keep the juices contained.
- Don't purchase foods if the "sell by" date has passed.
- Transport food home right away and refrigerate perishables immediately to prevent any bacteria from rapidly growing in the food.
- When the weather's hot, place groceries in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car rather than the hot trunk. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at high temperatures.
Take Note, Moms-to-Be!
Don't include these foods on your shopping list. They're not safe for you or your unborn baby.
- Sushi or sashimi. Raw fish (including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) or foods made with raw fish are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than foods made from cooked fish.
- Swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. These fish can contain high levels of methylmercury, a metal that can be harmful to your unborn baby. It's okay to eat other cooked fish/seafood as long as a variety of other kinds are selected during pregnancy or while a woman is trying to become pregnant. You can eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in methylmercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish and shellfish that are low in methylmercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more methylmercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
- Raw Sprouts (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean). Bacteria can get into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown. Once this occurs, these bacteria are nearly impossible to wash out. Sprouts grown in the home are also risky if eaten raw. Many outbreaks have been linked to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on the seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting - even under clean conditions.
- Unpasteurized or Untreated Juice. These are normally in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores, health-food stores, cider mills, or farm markets. Such juices must have this warning on the label:
WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
Note: Juices that are fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass, such as at farmer's markets, at roadside stands, or in some juice bars, may not be pasteurized or otherwise treated to ensure their safety. Warning labels are not required on these products. Pregnant women and young children should avoid these juices.
If you can't tell if a juice has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, either don't use the product - or boil it before using it to kill any harmful bacteria.
It's okay to drink pasteurized or shelf-stable juice. Pasteurized juice can be found in the refrigerated or frozen juice sections of stores. Like milk, pasteurized juice must be refrigerated or frozen. Shelf-stable juice is able to be stored unrefrigerated on the shelf and is normally found in the non-refrigerated juice section of stores. It's packaged in shelf-stable containers, such as boxes, bottles, or cans.
A Note About Listeria monocytogenes
This bacterium that can be particularly harmful to you and your unborn baby and can be found in these foods:
- Hot dogs, deli meats, and luncheon meats. They're okay to eat if you reheat them until steaming hot.
- Soft cheeses (including Feta, Brie, Camembert, "blue-veined cheeses," "queso blanco," "queso fresco," and Panela). They're okay to eat if the label says they're made with pasteurized milk. Check the label.
- Refrigerated pbtés or meat spreads.
- Refrigerated smoked seafood. They're okay to eat if in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. (Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel is most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." These types of fish are found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.)
- Raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods that contain unpasteurized milk. All milk sold in interstate commerce is pasteurized (heat-processed to kill harmful bacteria). However, other dairy products, such as some cheeses, are not necessarily made with pasteurized milk. These products may be produced and sold locally, such as on dairy farms or local cheese stores. Be sure that all the dairy products you consume are made with pasteurized milk. Check the label.
3 Ways to Safely Defrost Frozen Foods
- In the refrigerator. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
- In cold water. Change the water every half-hour to keep the water cold.
- Using the microwave, but cook the food immediately after it's defrosted.
Note: Don't defrost foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the "danger zone," the range of temperatures usually between 40° and 140°F (4° and 60°C).
Be creative and tempt your party guests with an array of fun platters, but keep food selections safe. Here's how:
- Heating foods to the right temperature for the proper amount of time kills harmful bacteria, so cook meat, poultry, fish, and eggs thoroughly. For the recommended cooking temperatures, see Cook.
- Some raw eggs can contain harmful bacteria. Some of your favorite homemade recipes may call for raw or lightly-cooked eggs. These may include recipes for Caesar salad dressing, ice cream, custards, chocolate mousse, and some sauces. Here are safe ways to make your favorite egg-containing foods:
- Add the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heat the mixture thoroughly.
- Use store-bought products of the foods listed above, which are often already cooked or pasteurized.
- Purchase pasteurized eggs. These eggs can be found in some supermarkets and are labeled "pasteurized." Here are several types consumers can buy:
- Fresh, pasteurized eggs in the shell (found in the refrigerator section).
- Liquid, pasteurized egg products (found in the refrigerator section).
- Frozen, pasteurized egg products (found in the frozen food section).
- Powdered egg whites (found in the baking section).
Refrigerate all perishables (foods that can spoil or become contaminated by bacteria if unrefrigerated) up until serving time. These foods include:
- Finger sandwiches
- Cheese chunks
- Fruit salad
- Foods that contain dairy products
Plan a bacteria-free buffet with these helpful tips:
If you're planning a buffet at home and are not sure how quickly the food will be eaten, keep buffet portions small. Prepare a number of small platters and dishes ahead of time. Store cold back-up dishes in the refrigerator or keep hot dishes in the oven set at 200° to 250° F (93° C to 121° C) prior to serving. This way, your late-arriving guests can enjoy the same appetizing arrangements as the early arrivals.
Hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature of 140° F (60° C) or warmer. Use a food thermometer to check. Serve or keep food hot in chafing dishes, crock pots, and warming trays. Note: Some warmers only hold food at 110° to 120° F (43° C to 49° C), so check the product label to make sure your warmer has the capability to hold foods at 140° F or warmer.
Cold foods should be kept at 40° F (4 ° C) or colder. Keep cold foods refrigerated until serving time. If food is going to stay out on the buffet table longer than two hours, place plates of cold food on ice to retain the chill.
Keep It Fresh
Don't add new food to an already-filled serving dish. Instead, replace nearly-empty serving dishes with freshly-filled ones. Bacteria from people's hands may have contaminated the food. Plus, bacteria may have started to multiply at room temperature.
Watch the Clock
Remember the 2-Hour Rule: Discard any perishables left out at room temperature for more than two hours, unless you're keeping it hot or cold. If the buffet is held in a place where the temperature is above 90°F, the safe-holding time is reduced to one hour.
Leaving with Leftovers?
Be sure to refrigerate leftovers immediately after you arrive home.
First Things First
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after handling food.