No proscuitto for the pregnant?
June 15, 2010 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Newly pregnant, ate a small bite of prosciutto. I would like to finish it. Can I?

I'm just into my first trimester. My sister has made this prosciutto, asparagus, cheese dish for dinner and I took a bite without thinking about the fact that it is much like deli meat. I can't find anything that says I definitely can or can't but I still want to eat it. It's cooked and looks like bacon. Is that good enough?
posted by grablife365 to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My doctor told me that eating deli meat once a week or so was fine, just not to make it a daily thing.
posted by Ostara at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2010

Assuming that it's imported prosciutto, I wouldn't worry about it. There are no nitrates in Italian prosciutto, and food processing regulations are sufficiently strict in the EU to assume that bacterial contaminations can pretty much be ruled out (it's not like anything harmful to you could grow in prosciutto anyway).
posted by halogen at 5:05 PM on June 15, 2010

Nevermind, that last parenthetical statement is incorrect. You and your fetus are most likely safe either way.
posted by halogen at 5:08 PM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks! Just wanted to know for sure!
posted by grablife365 at 5:11 PM on June 15, 2010

The danger in deli meat is the potential for listeria contamination. I'm not sure how only eating it once a week would eliminate this danger (although it would obviously reduce it relative to eating deli meat, say, every day).

Cooking will kill the bacteria, so if the prosciutto is cooked (as you say it is), there should be no risk.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2010

also, toxoplamosis is a (very limited unless you're eating stuff of dubious provenance) risk. The good news is that you might already have the antibodies. Is screening for toxo a routine check in the US?
posted by _dario at 5:23 PM on June 15, 2010

Depending on your country's food hygiene I guess. In Japan, the doctors give NO food restrictions when pregnant and was in fact surprised by the question.

But he did suggest not to eat too-cold foods, ie, directly from the fridge.
posted by lundman at 5:26 PM on June 15, 2010

Not eating too-cold foods! Wow.

You might enjoy this rant re. being pregnant and getting unscientific advice
posted by kmennie at 5:47 PM on June 15, 2010 [15 favorites]

Cooking will kill the bacteria, so if the prosciutto is cooked (as you say it is), there should be no risk.

Cooked during processing or cooked by your sister? If it's the former, it's still a listeria risk.

food processing regulations are sufficiently strict in the EU to assume that bacterial contaminations can pretty much be ruled out

The article you linked to concerns listeria contamination in imported Italian prosciutto.
posted by purpleclover at 7:18 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

loved your link, kmennie.

incidentally, my mother smoked when she was pregnant with me. I'm ok. Coffee? She was Italian, are you kidding me? After I was born she had very little milk, and formula just wouldn't cut it (I remain a staunch supporter of unprocessed food to this day!). My pediatrician, who incidentally also was the director of the pediatric hospital in Florence, gave her the unexpected advice: beer, and lots of it. Familial lore has it that it worked splendidly; my dad would get stern looks when packing cartloads of beer at the supermarket, and she would be quite a bit on the tipsy side, especially in the evening. Yet, I'm still ok.

mmm, beer.

posted by _dario at 7:39 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am currently 22 weeks pregnant, and I've been eating cold cuts like it's going out of style. I'll occasionally throw my sandwich in the microwave for a bit, but I figure there are a million things that could go wrong and I'm just not going to worry about this one thing. I've given up booze, caffeine, sushi, etc, but I will be eating my ham sandwiches.
posted by chiababe at 7:53 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My doctor told me that eating deli meat once a week or so was fine, just not to make it a daily thing.

This is simply bad advice. Listeria is much more likely to cause listeriosis, which can be deadly, when you're pregnant; cold cuts should be avoided altogether.
posted by Dasein at 8:30 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

All these food restrictions? Based on fear. Not science. Nobody's tested this stuff, because how can you test this stuff? Human subjects? During pregnancy? Come on. So if anything even seems like it might maybe possibly be a problem, at all, we just say no. Because who's going to say yeah eat the brie, it's probably just fine, and then face a malpractice suit when it turns out your kid has a mold rind for a head? Nobody. I'm not going to tell you to eat the brie. I'll tell you, in France they recommend drinking a glass of wine every day you're pregnant. Probably the brie too. They're French. They seem to do okay. I don't recommend wine for the mother. I recommend it for the father. But I'm not French. Maybe your kid grows up with an accent, you sue me for malpractice. Not worth my time to tell you it's okay to drink the wine, eat the prosciutto, the sushi, the skydiving. Don't do the skydiving by the way. Bad idea. The wine, the cured meats, the raw milk, here I give a gallic shrug.

OK, our OB didn't actually speak like a borscht belt comedian, that's just my memory screwing with me. But that's essentially what she told us anyway.

Our son has a lovely mold rind for a head. I look forward to carving it next halloween.
posted by ook at 8:30 PM on June 15, 2010 [31 favorites]

Spaniards wouldn't exist if eating cured ham was harmful to babies.
posted by tim_in_oz at 8:43 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

(Slightly more seriously: according to Dasein's link 2500 people become ill from listeria per year in the US. 2.4 million people were injured in car accidents in 2005 in the US, according to the first random google I googled. So you're totally wrapping yourself in bubble wrap every time you get in a car, right? Because that's a thousand bites of prosciutto right there. Buckle in.

We all want to do the best by our kids, and that's awesome. I honor that desire. Sincerely. But literally everything has a risk, and at a certain point you just have to look at the odds and make a call. My opinion, the stress and anxiety we impose these days over whether or not eating a bite of prosciutto is okay is probably as dangerous as just enjoying the delicious, delicious prosciutto.

But what do I know? I've got a cheese rind kid here stinking up the place.)
posted by ook at 8:57 PM on June 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

It may be a relatively small risk compared to car accidents... but it is a risk nonetheless. And once you have caught listeria, nothing can be done for the baby. In Australia it is absolutely and expressly forbidden. As are bean sprouts and bagged salad mix from the supermarket.

This is what the Australian government gives out to pregnant women here. We had an American woman in our mother's group and we were all amazed at the difference in information given to her during her pregnancy.

Our way of looking at it... is it worth it to eat something knowing the risk, knowing that there is no treatment? And of course there are lots of risks during pregnancy...but if there are avoidable ones, why not avoid them? It's only for 40 weeks... probably less by the time you find out you're pregnant. And then at the end of the pregnancy you can smugly sit back and look at your baby and tell them all the fun you gave up for them.... and keep telling them till they're 30.
posted by taff at 10:06 PM on June 15, 2010

is it worth it to eat something knowing the risk, knowing that there is no treatment?

Well, that's why I say you've got to make a call for yourself. Everyone's got to make their own decisions.

But, you know, the "there is no treatment" kind of thing, when the very link we're both looking at says right there "Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. These antibiotics, in most cases, will prevent infection to the fetus and newborn" makes me wonder if you're really calculating the risks accurately.

I'm not seeing what's so shockingly different between the pamphlet you link to and the pamphlets handed out at our (american) birthing class -- both seem equally emphatic and equally undersupported by evidence to me. There's a whole lot of 'well, pregnant women aren't at any extra risk for X, but in rare cases X can cause Y and Z, so you should avoid anything that could even theoretically cause X' in there. Also a whole lot of "it is not known whether there is a safe level of X, so avoid X just in case." Fear, not science.

Which, great. Avoid X, if it makes you feel better. All I'm saying is that freaking out over accidentally not avoiding a single bite of X may be as harmful than just enjoying a bite of X.

Especially if the X under consideration is prosciutto. 40 weeks is a long time. Especially when you're pregnant. And prosciutto is delicious.
posted by ook at 11:11 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wasn't looking at that link. My link doesn't give treatment options. Undersupported by evidence, though? There is no known and not known safe levels of listeria. And you don't give people diseases in order to watch their outcomes... you do analysis of the populations affected and control for other, extraneous, factors.

My two second googling for listeria found that it had a 25-50% mortality rate for the foetus. And you don't always know you've caught it and if you don't realise...and you let it go... THEN there's no treatment.

Avoiding listeria means trusting in spotty teenagers who work in subway, macdonalds and all sorts of delicatessens... trusting them and everyone who handled your food before it got to you... trusting that they, AT ALL TIMES kept the food and surfaces clean and at the appropriate temperature.

I'm a pretty casual kind of person generally. And reasonably trusting. But when pregnant... I don't give any body that kind of trust.
posted by taff at 2:05 AM on June 16, 2010

As mentioned previously, listeria is the organism to watch out for. It's rare but most cases are due to consumption of contaminated deli meats or undercooked hot dogs. Since your prosciutto was cooked (which kills any potential bacteria), you're good to go. Enjoy!
posted by emd3737 at 4:29 AM on June 16, 2010

Response by poster: _dario, I'm not sure if its standard but I was tested for all kinds of things before I got pregnant.
kmennie, reading it! Thanks!
ook, hilarious! "40 weeks is a long time. Especially when you're pregnant. And prosciutto is delicious." I can agree on all counts.
taff - I can agree about risks though. I'm not planning to put my baby's life in the balance for a good dinner. I feel far more comfortable with further research.

Thanks for the answers!
posted by grablife365 at 6:28 AM on June 16, 2010

Personally, I wouldn't eat it regardless of the germ risk, because depending on who made it, it's liable to be full of salt, and nitrates and other chemicals. I wouldn't want to be pumping all that junk into anything that's still forming it's organs.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:39 AM on June 16, 2010

The article you linked to concerns listeria contamination in imported Italian prosciutto

Canadian prosciutto, actually. Authentic Italian ham produced in Brampton, Ontario.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:16 AM on June 16, 2010

Worth reading, and sharing, for anyone who wants to tout their pregnancy-health-eating-prohibition-risk-factor credentials, is this op-ed in the New York Times:

Chicken of the Sea

"But rational analysis doesn’t hold sway with the pregnancy police.

'Why take any risk?' they ask. The medical establishment and the culture at large have twisted logic around to the point where any risk, no matter how infinitesimal, is too much. So powerful is this Puritanical impulse that, once a health objection is raised, however irrational the recommended behavior, it’s considered irresponsible to behave any other way.

There’s a temptation to say there’s no harm in this type of thinking. Women should simply not eat sushi for nine months; surely that’s no big deal.

But there are problems with this approach..."

Just some food (ahem) for thought.

(confidential props to the Mefite who shared this link with me first, who might not care to be outed)
posted by pineapple at 10:15 AM on June 16, 2010

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