Food Handling

Safe Food Handling for a Healthy Pregnancy

Protect you and your baby from LISTERIOSIS

Pregnant women are more prone to get sick from listeria, harmful bacteria found in many foods. Listeria can lead to a disease called listeriosis, which can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, serious sickness, or the death of a newborn baby. If you’re pregnant, you need to make sure your foods are safe to eat.

Pregnant woman shopping for groceries

How can I keep my food safe?

  • To avoid listeria growth in your refrigerator and freezer, set the temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower respectively. Check your refrigerator’s temperature using a refrigerator thermometer.
  • Clean up all refrigerator spills right away—especially juices from hot dog packages, seafood, raw meat, chicken, or turkey.
  • Clean your refrigerator’s inside walls and shelves with hot water and liquid soap, then rinse thoroughly.
  • Use precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as you can. Don’t store it in the refrigerator too long.
  • Wash your hands after you touch hot dogs, raw meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, or meat juice.
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk.

How will I know if I have listeria?

Unfortunately, the illness takes weeks to develop, so you may not know immediately. Early signs include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and an upset stomach. At first, it may feel like the flu. Later on, you may have a stiff neck, headache, convulsions, or loss of balance.

What should I do if I think I have listeriosis?

If you have any of the above symptoms, call your doctor, nurse, or health clinic. Listeriosis can be treated effectively.

For more information about food safety, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service web site at