Foods to Avoid - Salmonella Poisoning


Some Good - Some Bad

Although the concept of eating for two, as in double helpings, is not really accurate a pregnant woman is, in fact, eating for two. When you become pregnant you quickly learn that a lot of what you eat can and does affect your baby. So, in this sense, you are eating for two.

There are many foods that you can eat and enjoy that will benefit both you and your baby - and there are foods to avoid when pregnant that are not good for either of you. Some foods have the capacity to make you sick but won't bother the baby, and other foods can not only make you sick, but cause devastating harm to your baby.

Salmonella Bacteria

According to the World Health Organization, one of the most common causes of food borne illness worldwide is salmonella bacteria. Each year, in the US alone, more than 40,000 cases of salmonella poisoning are reported to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and there are likely thousands that go unreported. When it comes to these particular bacteria, pregnant women are classified as a special risk group because of the dangers to both mother and baby.

Salmonellosis, a mild, self-limited gastroenteritis is usually produced by one of the two most common strains of salmonella - Salmonella Enteridis and Salmonella Typhimurium. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and the intestines, often with vomiting and diarrhea that is caused by bacteria in food or a virus. Along with the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, other symptoms of salmonella poisoning include fever and stomach cramps that appear between 12 and 72 hours after contaminated food is eaten. It is usually over and you're back to normal within four to seven days. As a rule antibiotics aren't necessary and are only given in about two percent of cases. The problem with treating a pregnant woman with the correct antibiotic to quell salmonellosis is that the antibiotic of choice - fluoroquinolones - can cause birth defects.

Infection in Pregnant Women

In some instances, salmonella passes from the intestine to the bloodstream, which can be fatal. It can also produce longer-term complications that affect other parts of the body after it leaves the bloodstream. Heart valves and the lining of the heart can be affected as can bones, the kidneys and the brain. Reiter's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic joint pain, eye irritation and urination problems is yet another complication that, with the previous mentioned complications, appear most commonly in pregnant women who have contracted salmonellosis that has passed to the bloodstream.

Infection in Baby

Even if the symptoms of salmonella are mild in the mother, salmonella infection crosses the placenta and can potentially cause severe disease and even death in the baby. In a reported case in Scandinavia (Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Disease) in 2004, a pregnant woman at 25 weeks gestation was admitted to hospital with salmonella and her baby was taken by cesarean section due to an abnormal fetal heartbeat. Despite intensive medical treatment, the baby died four hours later. Culture-proven salmonella bloodstream infection and infection-induced multi-system organ failure were the official cause of death. In a similar situation, reported in 2008 (Archives of Obstetrics and Gynecology), a spontaneous abortion at 16 weeks occurred seven days after recovery of the mother from a mild case of salmonella. Sadly, cases like this are more common than most of us realize.

We know that salmonella in babies is severe when compared to the effects on adults. If an infant survives salmonella poisoning, the effects are usually lifelong, requiring medical care and often including severe developmental issues.

How Salmonella is Spread

Salmonella is spread to humans through eating contaminated food and it can also come from animal or human feces that contact the food during processing. The potential sources of salmonella are pets; dogs, cats, turtles and reptiles; most farm animals, and infected humans who are carriers of the bacteria. Most outbreaks of salmonella on a larger scale involve raw meats or poorly cooked meats, raw eggs and egg products, fresh vegetables, cereal, pistachio nuts, tomatoes, and contaminated water.


Prevention is the best course of action and by paying careful attention to food preparation and handling, avoiding reptilian and amphibian pets (snakes and turtles), and maintaining proper sanitary conditions you can protect yourself and your baby from salmonella. Of course, there are foods to avoid when pregnant that carry salmonella.

Salmonella is one of several gastrointestinal illnesses that can be passed on through food. Find out what foods can carry diseases and what foods to avoid when pregnant.

Login to comment

Post a comment