Listeriosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Listeria. The infection is acquired by eating food contaminated by Listeria. In most healthy people Listeria causes only quite mild symptoms however in pregnancy it can potentially cause miscarriage, preterm birth and occasionally stillbirth. The good news is that Listeriosis is very uncommon. The link below is to the Australian Food Standard brochure on Listeria and it is certainly worth looking at and being familiar with the recommendations.
However as Listeria awareness has increased over the past few years an increasing number of pregnant women have made drastic dietary changes in an effort to avoid exposure to Listeria. To some extent this is commendable but recent research suggests that one of the consequences of this type of behaviour is that women may be missing out on some of the healthy nutrients they need during pregnancy.
The article below quotes reseach by Professor Clare Collins from The University of Newcastle who raises concerns about the nutritional consequences of strict avoidance of potential Listeria containing foods.
“In our study, moderate or low consumption of foods at risk of contamination by Listeria was not associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, suggesting that a balanced consumption of potentially risky foods with foods containing essential nutrients may be the best approach.”
“The recommendations need to include the list of ‘risky’ foods, but should focus on giving women low-risk alternatives to help them meet their optimal nutrient targets. It is also vital to emphasise the importance of safe food handling procedures.
“Women need to know how to balance opposing risks. We want them to feel confident about the foods they choose, so they minimise the risk of Listeriosis while giving their baby the best possible start to life.”
It is interesting to note that in Australia in 2008 there were only 12 reported cases of Listeriosis in pregnancy, so although potentially serious it is very uncommon.
The best advice for pregnant women would seem to be to maintain a healthy, nutritious and well-balanced diet, to be aware of the “risky” Listeria foods and to maintain a high standard of safe food handling precautions.