You are here

Food-Safety Cheat Sheet

Raw/undercooked foods

The issue: Some raw foods can cause listeriosis, salmonellosis, and other illnesses that may lead to miscarriage or serious health problems for your baby.

What's okay: Well-done meats, poultry, and fish; vegetarian sushi; deli meats (cold cuts) and hot dogs that have been reheated to steaming in a microwave; canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads.

What to avoid: Any of the above items that have not been cooked to the proper temperature; raw sprouts (including radishes); raw shellfish; raw eggs.


The issue: Certain fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can contribute to developmental delays. Farm-raised fish may be contaminated with PCBs (cancer-causing agents) and other toxins.

What's okay: You can safely consume up to 12 ounces a week of wild salmon (not farm-raised), sea bass, shrimp, sole, snapper, flounder, catfish, cod, haddock, sardines, tilapia, ocean perch, and pollack. Restrict tuna consumption to the "chunk light" canned variety and no more than six ounces a week. Canned or shelf-stable salmon is safe.

What to avoid: Swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish, and fresh (as well as canned albacore) tuna; raw sushi and raw shellfish; refrigerated smoked seafood such as lox, trout, and whitefish (unless cooked as an ingredient in another dish).

Cheese and dairy products

The issue: Raw and unpasteurized dairy products can cause listeriosis, salmonellosis, and other foodborne illnesses.

What's okay: Pasteurized milk and yogurts; well-cooked (that is, not runny) eggs; hard cheeses.

What to avoid: Raw milk and any dairy product (cheese, yogurt) made with raw milk; soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Danish blue, Roquefort, and Mexican-style queso blanco and queso fresco (unless they're clearly marked as pasteurized); uncooked foods made with raw eggs (such as salad dressings and protein shakes).

Caffeine/herbal teas

The issue: Caffeine can cross the placenta and affect fetal heart rate and respiration. Certain herbs cause adverse reactions, and some teas are not regulated, so you can't be sure of the herb's concentration.

What's okay: Up to 300 mg of caffeine a day (an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 150 mg, a 12-ounce can of soda has 35 to 50 mg, and an 8-ounce cup of black tea has about 40 mg); flavored decaffeinated teas in filtered bags (citrus, ginger, peppermint).

What to avoid: Teas made with goldenseal, black or blue cohosh, ephedra, dong quai, feverfew, juniper, pennyroyal, Saint-John's-wort, rosemary, or thuja.

Artificial sweeteners

The issue: They cause no known harm to babies in utero. Still, some experts caution against them.

What's okay: Saccharin, aspartame and Splenda in moderate amounts.

What to avoid: Drinking lots of nutritionally void diet drinks instead of healthier ones like water and juice.