I Ate Deli Meat While Pregnant – Should Concerns Arise?

One food item that often gets questioned during pregnancy is deli meat. With its convenience and delicious taste, it’s understandable why many women crave deli meat sandwiches during pregnancy. However, there may be concerns about whether it’s safe for pregnant women to eat deli meat.

In this post, we will talk about the possible dangers and safety tips for eating deli meat during pregnancy. We’ll also provide some alternatives to satisfy those cravings without compromising your health or the baby’s development.

Deli Dining Dilemma

Understanding Deli Meat

Deli meat, also known as lunch meat or cold cuts, refers to precooked and sliced meats often used in sandwiches. These meats can include ham, turkey, chicken, roast beef, and salami.

The concern with deli meat during pregnancy is the risk of Listeria contamination. Listeriosis is a type of foodborne illness caused by a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium can be present in various food sources, including deli meat.

Why Can’t You Eat Deli Meat When Pregnant?

The key concern of consuming deli meats during pregnancy lies in the potential exposure to Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium thrives even at low temperatures, making refrigerated deli meats a possible source. Ingestion of this bacterium can lead to listeriosis, an infection that poses significant risks to pregnant women. It can cross the placental barrier, potentially causing miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe health issues in newborns. Therefore, medical professionals often advise pregnant women to avoid deli meats or consume them only after reheating them to a safe temperature, effectively killing any present bacteria [1].

The Potential Risks | Why Is Deli Meat Bad For Pregnancy

If a pregnant woman contracts listeriosis, it can result in severe health issues for both the mother and the baby [2]. These risks include:

  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Premature birth
  • Infection in the newborn
  • Developmental issues in the baby, such as neurological problems or intellectual disabilities

It’s crucial to understand that these risks are relatively low but still exist. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to listeriosis because their immune systems are weakened, making it harder to fight off infections.

Frequency and Quantity: Impact on Potential Risks

The impact of consuming deli meat during pregnancy greatly depends on the frequency and quantity of consumption. Infrequent, small amounts of deli meat might present a lower risk compared to frequent, large quantities. However, it’s crucial to remember that exposure to Listeria is not solely determined by quantity or frequency. A single instance of eating contaminated meat can potentially lead to infection. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and follow recommended safety precautions, such as properly heating deli meats to kill any possible bacteria or opting for safer alternatives to satisfy your cravings. When it comes to dietary concerns during pregnancy, seek guidance from a healthcare professional for tailored advice.

What Happens If You Eat Deli Meat While Pregnant?

While it’s not guaranteed to cause harm, consuming deli meat during pregnancy can pose risks due to potential Listeria contamination. If a pregnant woman ingests Listeria, it can lead to listeriosis. This infection can cross the placenta, posing severe risks like miscarriage, stillbirth, or health complications for the newborn. Listeriosis symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, and occasional digestive problems [3]. However, it’s worth noting that these symptoms might take a few weeks to show up. If you’ve consumed deli meat and are concerned about exposure, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

What If I Accidentally Ate Deli Meat While Pregnant?

If you’ve accidentally consumed deli meat while pregnant, don’t panic. Remember, the risk of listeriosis, while serious, is relatively low. The key factor is frequency and quantity. A single instance of consuming deli meat may not necessarily expose you to the bacteria. However, if you develop symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, or gastrointestinal issues, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Your healthcare provider can carry out the necessary tests and offer advice or treatment if required. In the future, try to avoid deli meats or make sure they’re sufficiently heated before eating, as this can kill the Listeria bacteria.

What Deli Meat Can You Eat While Pregnant?

While the general recommendation is to avoid or limit the intake of deli meats during pregnancy due to the risk of Listeria contamination, it’s also important to note that not all deli meats are off-limits. Safe consumption is possible with the right precautions. If your craving for deli meats becomes overwhelming, you can consider these options:

  • Heating Deli Meats: You can safely consume deli meat if it’s been heated to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot. This high heat can kill the Listeria bacteria, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Canned or Shelf-stable Meats: These types of meats have been processed to eliminate bacteria and are safe to eat during pregnancy.
  • Custom-cooked Meats: If you have access to a deli that freshly roasts and slices its meats daily, these are a safer option, especially if consumed on the same day.

Keep in mind that when in doubt, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice on your pregnancy diet.

For further insights on pregnancy-safe meats, check out our related article on deer meat consumption during pregnancy. This comprehensive guide sheds light on the nutritional benefits and potential concerns of consuming deer meat while expecting.

Steps to Mitigation After Consuming Deli Meat

If you’ve consumed deli meat during pregnancy, here are some steps to follow [4]:

  1. Don’t Panic: First, remember that while the risk of listeriosis is real, it’s relatively low. Stressing over it can have negative impacts on you and your baby’s health.
  2. Monitor Your Health: Keep a close eye on your health. Be vigilant for listeriosis symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and digestive issues.
  3. Seek Medical Advice: If you notice any symptoms or if you’re worried, contact your healthcare provider. Explain your dietary history and any symptoms you might be experiencing.
  4. Maintain a Balanced Diet: To ensure both you and your baby receive essential nutrients, maintain a varied and well-balanced diet. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products.
  5. Practice Safe Handling: If you decide to continue consuming deli meats, ensure they’re sufficiently heated before eating. This can kill the Listeria bacteria, reducing the risk of listeriosis.
  6. Seek Alternatives: If possible, try to find alternatives to deli meats that can satisfy your cravings. Options like grilled chicken, canned tuna, or hard-boiled eggs can be excellent replacements.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure, consult with a healthcare professional to get personalized advice.

Preventive Measures: Safely Consuming Deli Meat During Pregnancy

Taking precautionary measures can help minimize the risk of listeriosis from deli meats during pregnancy. Proper heating is a key step in this process [5]. Here are some tips to ensure safety:

  1. Proper Heating: Heat deli meats until they are piping hot. This means reaching an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to effectively eliminate any potential Listeria bacteria.
  2. Check the Temperature: Organize a food thermometer to confirm that meat attains the proper temperature.
  3. Avoid Cross-Contamination: Be sure to keep unheated meats separated from other food in your fridge to prevent potential cross-contamination.
  4. Proper Storage: Store deli meats at 40°F (4°C) or lower in your refrigerator. Consume reheated items promptly and refrain from letting them linger at room temperature for over two hours.
  5. Observe Expiration Dates: Always check the expiration date of deli meats before consuming them. Outdated products may have an increased risk of bacterial contamination.

By following these preventative steps, you can enjoy deli meats with a lower risk of listeriosis during pregnancy. However, always consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about your dietary choices.

Alternatives to Deli Meat

If you’re looking to avoid the potential risks associated with deli meats during pregnancy, consider these tasty and nutritious alternatives:

  1. Grilled Chicken: A lean source of protein, grilled chicken can be consumed as it is or added to salads, sandwiches, or wraps.
  2. Canned Tuna: Opt for canned tuna as a nutritious alternative, abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids. Ensure it is low in mercury and limit your intake to two servings per week.
  3. Hard-Boiled Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are a versatile option and an excellent source of protein that can be used in salads or sandwiches.
  4. Cooked Seafood: Cooked fish like salmon, tilapia, or cod are rich in healthy fats.
  5. Beans and Legumes: High in fiber and protein, beans or legumes like chickpeas, lentils, or black beans can be used in salads, soups, or pastas.
  6. Cheese: Pasteurized cheese can be used to add variety to sandwiches and salads. Avoid soft cheeses unless their label clearly states they are made from pasteurized milk.
  7. Nut Butter: Nut butter such as almond or peanut butter can be used as a spread on whole-grain bread or crackers for a protein-rich snack.
  8. Tofu: A vegetarian option, tofu can be grilled, stir-fried, or baked and used in various dishes.


Can I eat deli meats if they’re heated up during pregnancy?

Yes, heating deli meats until they’re steaming hot (165°F or 74°C) can kill the Listeria bacteria, making them safe to consume.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?

Symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues. If you observe these symptoms after consuming deli meats, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

What alternatives can I consider to deli meats during pregnancy?

You can consider alternatives like grilled chicken, canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, cooked seafood, beans and legumes, pasteurized cheese, nut butter, or tofu.

How can I prevent listeriosis during pregnancy?

You can prevent listeriosis by avoiding raw or undercooked meat, following safe food handling practices, and maintaining a balanced and varied diet.

Is an occasional consumption of deli meats during pregnancy dangerous?

While the risk of listeriosis is low, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider to understand the potential impacts based on your personal health and circumstances.


During pregnancy, the desire for a diverse range of foods is normal. It’s imperative to grasp the potential hazards linked to specific foods, like deli meats. While the likelihood of listeriosis is relatively low, adopting preventive measures safeguards the health of both you and your baby. Alternatives like grilled chicken, canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, and beans can help satisfy your cravings while providing the necessary nutrition. Recognize that every individual’s body and pregnancy are distinctive, underscoring the importance of consulting a healthcare provider for personalized counsel. Enjoy this special time in your life and take care of your health, as it sets the foundation for your baby’s wellbeing.

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