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Why the CDC Is Telling Pregnant People to Avoid Deli Meat and Cheese

A recent listeria outbreak across several states has been linked to items from deli counters. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
Published
November 14, 2022
turkey deli meat sandwich
Image: Ed_ya | Shutterstock

There are plenty of foods to indulge in while pregnant, but there’s also a short list of foods to avoid. From raw fish to cookie dough, these food items are prone to harbor some potentially nasty bacteria that could be harmful to you and baby. One such off-limits item? Deli meat and cheese.

Products from the deli counter have long since been on the list of foods to avoid while pregnant due to the potential presence of the bacteria listeria. Although the bacteria is easily killed when reheated to 165 degrees, a recent outbreak has spurned the CDC to issue a warning, reminding pregnant women, the elderly and immune-compromised to avoid deli meats and cheeses out of caution.

What caused the outbreak?

The outbreak, which has spread through six states now, has sickened 16 and sent 13 to the hospital. The CDC is not currently able to pinpoint the outbreak to a particular product but has linked deli counters across the country with cases in several states.

Why should pregnant women be concerned?

Pregnant people are 10 times more likely to contract severe illness from listeria (known as listeriosis) than non-pregnant people due to their weakened immune systems.

According to the CDC, once contracted, symptoms from listeriosis usually start within two weeks. Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches. However, in severe cases, Listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth and can cause serious illness or death in newborns.

How do I protect myself?

The easiest way to protect yourself from listeriosis is to avoid deli meat and any items from the deli counter. If you insist on getting something from the deli counter, the CDC recommends that you reheat the item to at least 165 degrees or until steaming hot to kill off the bacteria.

If you want to learn more about listeria and the outbreak, visit CDC.gov.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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