Welcome to Safe Eats, your food-by-food guide to selecting, preparing, and handling foods safely throughout your pregnancy and beyond!
Fresh fruits, veggies, and juices taste good and are good for you. Careful selection and handling of these foods will prevent foodborne illness. Follow these tips to be safe.
Wash those Fruits and Veggies!
Raw fruits and vegetables can become contaminated with harmful bacteria. Here's the proper way to prepare and handle them safely:
- Thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or preparing them, especially fruits that require peeling or cutting - like cantaloupe and other melons. Bacteria can be found on the outer rind or peel.
- Don't use soap, detergents, or bleach solutions to wash produce.
- As an added precaution, use a small vegetable brush to remove surface dirt.
- Try to cut away damaged or bruised areas - bacteria can thrive in these places.
Pregnant Women Be Aware!
Toxoplasma, a parasite that can be found on unwashed fruits and vegetables, can be particularly harmful to a mom-to-be and her unborn baby. For more information, see Toxoplasma.
The Sprout Issue
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. To reduce the risk:
- Avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean).
- Cook sprouts thoroughly. This significantly reduces the risk of illness.
- Check sandwiches and salads purchased at restaurants and delicatessens. They may often contain raw sprouts. Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food.
When fruits and vegetables are peeled, cut, or fresh-squeezed, harmful bacteria that may be on the outside can spread to the inside of the produce. To prevent foodborne illness, only drink those juices that have been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful bacteria. Read the label! Also, remember to thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or preparing them at home.
Pasteurized Juice: Where to Find It
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 treated containers, such as boxes, bottles, or cans.
Unpasteurized or Untreated Juice
These are normally found 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.
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 to kill any harmful bacteria.
"I never read the labels on juice. Isn't all juice pasteurized?" Ninety-eight percent of the juice sold in the U.S. is pasteurized (heat is applied to the juice to kill harmful bacteria). The remaining 2% of juice is unpasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. For your safety and that of your baby, always read the labels to make sure juice is pasteurized.
"I love 'smoothies'! Are they safe to drink while I'm pregnant?" There have been foodborne illness outbreaks associated with drinking "smoothies" (blended fruit drinks) made with unpasteurized juice. "Smoothies" made with pasteurized juice are safe to drink. If you're making "smoothies" at home or ordering one from a restaurant, make sure it's made with pasteurized juice. Also, if you're using fresh fruits, be sure to wash them thoroughly under running water.
"I thought the acid in juice would kill any bacteria that might be present. Is this not true?" No, acid doesn't always kill bacteria, often it only slows or stops bacterial growth. Plus, there are some bacteria that are very resistant to acid. For example, E. coli O157:H7 can survive in acidic juices, like orange or apple, for a long time.