Fact Sheet

Listeria and Salmonella risks during pregnancy

During pregnancy, hormonal changes affect a woman’s immune system which can make them more susceptible to foodborne illness. Some foodborne illness can adversely affect the developing baby. Listeria and Salmonella are two types of bacteria which are of particular concern during pregnancy.


Listeria is a bacteria that is found naturally in the environment, such as soil, where it can be transferred onto food. These bacteria survive in cold, moist locations, and can be hard to eliminate. Listeria can contaminate and grow on certain high-risk foods due to the way they are processed.

Listeria infection (Listeriosis) can present with no symptoms, or very general flu like symptoms (listed below). It can take 30 days or longer for the symptoms to occur.

Symptoms include:

Although Listeriosis is rare, pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get listeriosis than a non-pregnant healthy adult. Listeria infection can lead to miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirth.

Foods that are at higher risk of listeria bacteria contamination include:

Higher risk foods to avoidSafer alternatives
Cold cooked chicken

Cold processed meats including ham

Raw seafood including cold smoked salmon
Freshly cooked meat, chicken, seafood that is steaming hot
Soft and semi-soft cheesesHard cheeses
Unpasteurised milk and dairy productsPasteurised dairy products
Pre-prepared or pre-packed cold saladsFreshly washed and prepared fruit, vegetables and salads
Pate that is refrigerated at the point of purchasePate, meat or fish paste packaged in cans or pouches that do not require refrigeration at the point of purchase (shelf stable)

Ways to reduce risk of listeria infection


Salmonella is a bacteria that is found in the gut of pets, livestock, wild animals and people. Salmonella illness (salmonellosis) is a type of gastroenteritis (see symptoms below). While all people are at risk of salmonella illness, serious illness is more likely to occur in the elderly, very young children, and those with weakened immune systems, including pregnant women. In rare but serious cases, salmonellosis can lead to miscarriage.

Symptoms of the illness can include:

Symptoms can occur within 12-26 hours of infection (after consuming contaminated food) and usually last for 4-7 days, sometimes longer.

Common sources of food that can be contaminated with Salmonella include undercooked eggs, chicken and meat; unpasteurised milk and some raw fruits and vegetables that have been in contact with soil contaminated with salmonella.

Tips to prevent salmonella illness:

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