Can Pregnant Women Eat Charcuterie? (Quick Answer!)

By KidSpaceStuff •  Updated: 05/26/24 •  6 min read

When craving a delicious charcuterie board strikes, few can resist the tempting assortment of cured meats, cheeses, and accompaniments. However, for expectant mothers, the question of whether it’s safe to indulge often arises. 

In this article, I’ll dig deep into the considerations pregnant women need to be aware of when reaching for that slice of prosciutto or salami. Together, we’ll uncover the facts and dispel the myths about enjoying charcuterie during pregnancy.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Charcuterie?

Savoury Charcuterie Board Covered in Meats Olives Peppers Berries and Cheese

Pregnant women are advised to be cautious when consuming charcuterie due to potential health risks. 

Charcuterie may be contaminated with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can cause toxoplasmosis. Listeria monocytogenes can be found in charcuterie, which is a risk for listeriosis. Also, charcuterie often has a lot of salt and fat, which aren’t suitable for pregnant women. Those who still want to eat them should heat them until they are steaming to kill any germs and ensure they are fresh. They should also eat them in moderation and always talk to a health professional about their food choices.

What is Charcuterie?

Charcuterie is the art of cooking meats like bacon, salami, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, patés, and confit. The word “charcuterie” comes from the French word “charcuterie,” which means “pork butcher shop.” 

Also, the word “charcuterie” comes from the French term “chair cuit,” which means “cooked meat.” In the past, most prosciutto was made from pork. In modern times, a charcuterie board is a popular appetizer plate with a variety of preserved meats and cheeses, sliced bread, crackers, and fruit.

Why Might Charcuterie Be a Concern for Pregnant Women?

Charcuterie, which includes cured meats, can be dangerous for pregnant women because it might contain harmful germs, especially listeria. Listeria can be spread by eating food that has been tainted. 

This disease can hurt both the mother and the developing child. Since charcuterie meats are often eaten raw, the germs aren’t killed, which makes it more dangerous for pregnant women. During pregnancy, they should avoid or be careful with meat.

The Risks Explained: Listeria and Pregnancy

Charcuterie refers to a variety of preserved meats often enjoyed on appetizer platters. For many, they’re a delicious treat, but for pregnant women, listeria’s a hidden concern.

Listeria is a harmful bacteria that can sometimes be found in charcuterie. When a pregnant woman consumes food contaminated with listeria, she can get listeriosis. This illness can lead to severe complications for both the mother and the unborn baby, such as miscarriages, premature birth, or even severe infections in the newborn.

Since charcuterie meats are typically eaten without being cooked further, the potential bacteria are not killed, increasing the risk, thus, to ensure safety, pregnant women are often advised to avoid or be very cautious with charcuterie.

Safe Consumption of Charcuterie During Pregnancy

Charcuterie is a popular choice for many due to its delightful flavors and variety. But when you’re expecting, it’s essential to take extra precautions. Let’s explore how to enjoy charcuterie during pregnancy safely.

1. Heat It

Listeria bacteria can’t survive high temperatures. Heat your charcuterie meats until they’re steaming hot, ensuring any present bacteria are killed.

2. Check the Expiry Date

Always check the expiration or ‘use by’ date on the packaging. Eating expired meats can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.

3. Store Properly

Keep charcuterie in the fridge and consume it within 2-3 days of opening. This reduces the chance of bacteria growth.

4. Avoid Cross-contamination

Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods. This prevents the spread of harmful bacteria.

5. Opt for Pasteurized

If the charcuterie board includes cheeses, always choose those made from pasteurized milk. Unpasteurized cheeses can also contain harmful bacteria.

6. Prefer Freshly Prepared

If you’re dining out, choose places that prepare charcuterie fresh rather than those that let it sit out for extended periods.

7. Listen to Your Body

If something doesn’t taste or smell right, trust your instincts and avoid eating it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Other Foods to Watch Out for During Pregnancy

Eating healthily is always essential, but during pregnancy, it’s crucial. Certain foods can pose risks to both the mother and baby. Let’s explore which ones to be cautious of.

1. Raw or Undercooked Seafood:  This includes sushi. Some fish can have parasites or bacteria. Additionally, high-mercury fish like sharks, swordfish, and king mackerel should be avoided as they can harm a baby’s developing nervous system.

2. Raw or Undercooked Eggs: Foods like homemade mayonnaise or some homemade ice creams may contain raw eggs containing salmonella.

3. Unpasteurized Dairy: Soft cheeses like feta, brie, and camembert, or milk that’s not pasteurized, can carry harmful bacteria.

4. Raw Sprouts: Including alfalfa, clover, and radish. They can contain E. coli or salmonella.

5. Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables: Always wash them thoroughly to remove any harmful bacteria and pesticides.

6. Excess Caffeine: Limit your intake, as too much caffeine can increase the risk of preterm birth or low birth weight. Consuming no more than 200-300mg a day is recommended.

7. Processed Junk Foods: They’re high in calories, sugar, and fat but low in nutrients, which isn’t ideal for your baby’s development.

8. Alcohol: It’s best to avoid alcohol entirely, as it can lead to congenital disabilities and developmental issues.

9. Deli Meats: Like charcuterie, deli meats can also contain Listeria unless heated up thoroughly before eating.

FAQs

Is it safe to eat cooked charcuterie meats during pregnancy?

It is safe to eat charcuterie meats during pregnancy if they are heated until steaming hot, which kills any potential Listeria.

Are there any charcuterie cheeses that are safe for pregnant women?

Cheeses made from pasteurized milk are generally safe for pregnant women. Avoid soft cheeses like brie, camembert, and blue cheese unless labeled as made from pasteurized milk.

How can I ensure my charcuterie board is free from listeria?

To ensure your charcuterie board is free from Listeria, heat all meats until steaming, use cheeses made from pasteurized milk, and practice good hygiene, including washing hands using clean utensils and serving dishes.

Here’s a great video about Food Safety from a Doctor!

Final Thoughts

To conclude, pregnant women can eat Charcuterie if it is adequately cooked and precautions are taken. 

Although flavorful and popular, Charcuterie poses risks due to potential Listeria contamination. Therefore, while enjoying these treats during pregnancy is possible, it’s crucial to ensure meats are heated until steaming and to opt for pasteurized cheeses. With these safety measures in mind, pregnant women can still savor the unique flavors of Charcuterie while prioritizing their health and that of their baby.