What foods to avoid

Some foods are risky to eat while you are pregnant, either because they could harm your baby or because they may make you ill. There’s only a small chance of harming yourself or your baby, but it makes sense to avoid these foods if possible. Get further information about foods to avoid when pregnant.

Unpasteurised milk

This can contain a type of bacteria, called listeria, that can harm your baby. Pasteurised milk, which is what you find in most shops, is fine – in fact, it is good for you and your baby.

Some types of cheese

Avoid cheeses such as camembert, brie or chèvre (a type of goat’s cheese), or others that have a similar rind. You should also avoid blue cheeses. These cheeses are made with mould and they can contain listeria, a type of bacteria that could harm your baby.

Liver and supplements containing vitamin A

Liver and liver products such as pâté or liver sausage may contain high levels of vitamin A which can be harmful to your baby. For the same reason, don’t take vitamin A supplements. If you need extra, your doctor will prescribe them.

Pâté

Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable versions. This is because pâté can contain listeria.

Raw or partially cooked eggs

Don’t eat raw eggs or food containing raw or partially cooked eggs, such as home-made mayonnaise (regular mayonnaise in jars is fine) puddings such as tiramisu and uncooked cheesecake. You should eat eggs cooked enough for both the white and yolk to be solid. This is to avoid the risk of salmonella, which causes food poisoning.

Raw or undercooked meats

Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and keep it separate from foods that are ready to eat. This is because raw meat contains bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

Make sure you only eat meat that has been well cooked. This is especially important with poultry and products made from minced meat such as sausages and burgers. Make sure these are cooked until they are piping hot all the way through and no pink meat is left.

Some types of fish

You can eat most types of fish when pregnant, but there are a few to avoid. There are others where you should limit the amount you eat.

Avoid eating any shark, swordfish and marlin. This also applies to children and young people under the age of 16.

Have no more than two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish includes fresh tuna (tinned tuna does not count as oily fish) mackerel, herring, sardines and trout.

Limit the amount of tuna you eat to no more than two fresh tuna steaks a week (weighing about 140g cooked, or 170g raw) or four medium-sized tins of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can). This is because of the levels of mercury in this fish. High levels of mercury can harm a baby’s developing nervous system.

Remember that eating fish is good for your health and the development of your baby so you should still aim to include it in your diet.

Raw shellfish

Avoid raw shellfish when you are pregnant. This is because raw shellfish can sometimes contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning. It’s fine to eat shellfish, including prawns, if they have been properly cooked.

Undercooked ready meals

Avoid eating ready meals that are undercooked. Make sure that you heat them until they are piping hot all the way through.

Alcohol

It is recommended that you do not drink any alcohol during your pregnancy or when trying for a baby. This is the safest choice as even small quantities of alcohol can harm your baby. For more information see the section on alcohol and pregnancy.

Last Updated: 25 July 2012
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