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Listeria infection during pregnancy

Listeria; listeriosis; infection; miscarriage; stillbirth; still; birth; premature; food; preparation; soft; cheese; cheeses; meat; pate; unpasteurised; milk; brie; camembert; ricotta; cold; under; cooked; raw; takeaway; ready; eat; salad; oyster; sashimi; sushi; smoked; seafood; chicken; hygiene;


Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness caused by a germ called Listeria. Listeria can be passed on by contaminated food or poor food hygiene. It causes few or no symptoms in the mother, however the infection may be transferred to the baby and can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth or make a newborn baby very ill.

You can reduce your chance of getting this infection by

  • avoiding certain foods
  • being careful about what you eat while you are out
  • preparing food carefully
  • eating freshly cooked or freshly prepared foods.

Contact with infected farm animals, particularly stillborn animals, can also spread the infection.

For more information:

Pregnancy, birth and baby Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a national Australian Government service providing support and information for expecting parents and parents of children, from birth to 5 years of age.

Department of Health South Australia 

Food Standards Australia New Zealand 

Better Health Channel (Victoria) 

Foods that could contain listeria

Foods that could contain Listeria are mainly chilled, ready-to-eat foods including:

  • unpasteurised milk and milk products (including goat milk and sheep milk).
  • soft cheeses, such as brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue veined cheeses - these are safe if cooked and eaten hot. (Pasteurised milk products such as packaged cottage cheese, and hard yellow cheese are safe.)
  • chicken that has been cooked, then cooled such as diced chicken that is used in chicken sandwiches
  • pate
  • cold cooked meats – such as those sold in supermarket delis
  • undercooked meats (such as 'raw' steak)
  • pre-prepared or stored salads, including salads from salad bars in restaurants, delis and supermarkets (only eat salads that have been freshly prepared)
  • raw seafood such as sashimi and oysters
  • smoked seafood such as smoked salmon and smoked oysters
  • ready to eat prawns

Preparing, storing and heating food

Listeria is destroyed by cooking so freshly cooked foods including meat, chicken and seafood are safe to eat. However listeria is one of the few bacteria that will continue to grow in refrigerated foods, which is why chilled ready-to-eat foods and refrigerated foods should be avoided.

  • Thoroughly wash vegetables that are to be eaten raw.
  • Prepare foods such as fruit salads, green salads and vegetable dishes shortly before eating them.
  • Do not eat food that has been prepared and then stored in a fridge for more than 12 hours.
  • It is best not to eat salads from salad bars in restaurants, supermarkets and delis.
  • Refrigerated foods that are past their 'use-by-date' or 'best before date' should not be eaten.
  • If you buy ready-to-eat hot food, make sure that it's served steaming hot.
  • When reheating food in the microwave, make sure that it is steaming hot right through.

When eating out

  • Only eat food that is served hot – don't eat food that is served lukewarm.
  • Avoid smorgasbords – if this is not possible, only choose hot foods.
  • Avoid pre-made salads (such as from salad bars).

Good food hygiene

  • Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling raw food to avoid spread of bacteria from raw to cooked food and other food such as salads.
  • Thoroughly cook all raw food of animal origin (eg meat, chicken, fish).
  • Fully reheat food until it is steaming hot.
  • Avoid unpasteurised milk and foods made from unpasteurised milk.
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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.


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