Everyone’s favorite social media citizen, model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen, has been having pregnancy complications with baby number three. She’s currently hospitalized, but that hasn’t stopped her from sharing her favorite snacks on social media, which in a recent Instagram story included a ham and cheese sandwich made by her superstar husband, musician John Legend.
While Teigen has previously shared that cold cuts — including late night Lunchables — are a pregnancy craving of hers, deli meats pose a risk to pregnant women.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid processed meats to prevent listeriosis, an illness caused by the bacteria listeria. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than the general population, but Teigen explained she has way of lowering the risk while still indulging her craving for cold cuts.
"If you microwave [deli meat] you can actually kill whatever listeria," Teigen said in her Instagram stories. "You don't have to microwave the crap out of it, just a little, but it's a way to get around the system."
Why microwave cold cuts? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that pregnant women "avoid eating hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts, other deli meats (such as bologna), or fermented or dry sausages unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving."
Why do deli meats pose a risk to pregnant women?
"Because deli meats are so delicious and common, women are often surprised to find out that they may not be able to have them in pregnancy," said Dr. Steve Rad, MD, an OBGYN and Medical Director of Los Angeles Fetal & Maternal Care Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Office Towers, told TODAY. According to Chrissy Teigen's Instagram, he also happens to be her OB-GYN.
Listeria is most commonly associated with processed/deli meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses, smoked seafood, unpasteurized milk, store salads, meat spreads, pate and even fruits and vegetables.
"Normally, deli meats are OK if you are not pregnant. However, pregnant women, whose immune systems are to some degree compromised, are many folds more likely and susceptible to getting listeria than non-pregnant people and the complications for the mother and developing baby can be very serious and devastating, including miscarriage, poor fetal growth, preterm labor and birth, stillbirth and infected mothers and babies," said Rad.
Mothers can get seriously sick, too, explained Rad, as listeria can cause fevers, diarrhea and blood stream infections.
"While overall the risk may be low, the results of listeria infection in pregnancy can be very serious for the mother, fetus and infant, hence, the reason for so much caution," Rad said.
How can pregnant women eat cold cuts safely?
"My general recommendation is to avoid hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts and other deli meats while pregnant," said Rad.
If you can't resist those cold cut cravings, heed the CDC's advice to heat them to a minimum internal temperature of at least 165 degrees and cook until “steaming hot” to kill the bacteria.
"Per USDA, these should be eaten soon after heating and should not be allowed to stay at room temperature or returned to refrigeration temperatures. When heating these meat products in the microwave, verify that the products reach this temperature throughout," explained Rad.
Now where's that meat thermometer?