Really, I can’t have a turkey sandwich?

In reviewing certain topics for this website, I realize that over the years, I may have been a bit laissez-faire when it comes to the risk of Listeriosis.

In over to 20 years of practice, I have seen only one pregnant patient with Listeriosis, and she was immunocompromised because of  medication she took for her Crohn’s Disease. As a consequence, I couldn’t get too excited about the potential risk of Listeria infection from eating deli-meat, for example. I usually take a kind of “everything in moderation” approach to life and it seemed like an over-reaction to tell pregnant women they couldn’t eat foods that seem perfectly safe on the whole.

But here is the data:

  • Listeriosis is 17 times more likely to occur in pregnant women than in the general population, with about one-third of all cases occurring in this group.
  • While there is no maternal mortality, approximately 20% of pregnancies complicated by listeriosis end in spontaneous abortion or stillbirth, and two-thirds of surviving infants develop clinical neonatal listeriosis.
  • Listeria accounts for 20% of all cases of meningitis in neonates—second only to group B streptococcus.
  • The foods with the highest risk are often ready-to-eat foods stored at refrigeration temperature for prolonged periods.

With all of my research, I couldn’t find a clear definition of “ready-to-eat” and I was particularly surprised about the risk of smoked salmon or lox. The recommended guidelines for how to avoid food poisoning appear on the website under the safety section and I am inclined to emphasize them for my patients in the future.

Any food experts out there, would love to hear your views!


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