Are cured meats safe to eat when pregnant?

Are Parma ham, pepperoni, chorizo and salami among the foods that pregnant women should avoid?

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In a nutshell

Avoid cured meats, unless they have been cooked or frozen first

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The expert view

The latest advice from the Food Standards Agency is that pregnant women should take care when eating cold cured meats such as salami, chorizo, pepperoni and Parma ham. This is  because these meats are not cooked but cured and fermented so they may contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites.

It’s best to check the instructions on the pack to see whether the product is ready-to-eat or needs cooking first.

For ready-to-eat meats, you can reduce any risk from parasites by freezing cured/fermented meats for four days at home before you eat them. Freezing kills most parasites and so makes the meat safer to eat.

Eating out

It’s worth being cautious when going out to eat as well, points out nutritionist Dr Rana Conway.

“Be careful if you order a pizza with Parma ham on it,” she warns. “Although the pizza is obviously cooked, the Parma ham is usually placed on top afterwards, so it’s not. If in doubt ask before you order.”

The NHS also recommends exercising caution when going out for a meal and suggests checking with staff if you are in a restaurant that sells cold cured or fermented meats and finding out  if it has been frozen.

Mums on our forum say

“I’ve eaten all of these at some stage this pregnancy. The steak thing confuses me too because they keep changing their minds about whether we have to have it well done or not.

“I ask for medium in England and well done here in Switzerland because that often means that it comes just about cooked but I am a bit wary when it’s really red in the middle.” – Lindtbunny

‘I ate everything in moderation save for pate. Luckily I don’t like shellfish so that was never an issue.” – Robinsparkles

Read more about pregnancy food safety

Are there any safe pâtés I can eat during pregnancy?

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