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Holiday dinner pregnancy dangers

With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, our focus is quickly turning to the quality time we’ll be spending with family and friends over delicious home-cooked meals. But if you’re trying to get pregnant, or recently found out you are, there are a few risky holiday foods – according to counselors at the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) – you should avoid during the festive season.

Spiked cider

1Spiced cider

Many of these drinkable ciders pack a boozy punch, so be sure to ask your host or hostess if the spiced cider they’re serving contains alcohol. According to CTIS, drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading cause of newborn mental retardation.


Another popular drink doled out during the holidays, eggnog can be served as a boozy beverage or as a latte. Make sure the version you’re sipping is free of alcohol and is pasteurized. Also, when drinking a latte, make it decaf.

3Rum balls

A deliciously decadent dessert, these little balls contain a small amount of alcohol, which isn’t harmful if you have one, but can be very dangerous if you indulge. They also contain caffeine because of the cocoa.

4Cheese plates

Unpasteurized and soft cheeses can contain the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, which is known to cause listeriosis (a serious infection which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth). Stick to cheeses you know are pasteurized.

5Lunch meats

Another cocktail party fave, luncheon meats served on a charcuterie tray can, like certain cheeses, contain Listeria monocytogenes. The only way to dig into deli meats is if they’ve been cooked.


While liver contains a ton of good-for-your-body nutrients, the spreadable meat has been known to cause listeriosis. Opt for hummus or pasteurized cream cheese if you’re craving some spreadable goodness on crackers.

7Imported candies

Recent research has shown wrappers found on candies from Mexico and other parts of the developing world may contain lead. The chemicals can then leach from the wrappers into the candy. High lead levels are associated with a slew of birthing complications, including low birth-weight.

8Turkey and ham

It’s OK to eat these treats — if they’re fully cooked. If they’re not, you could wind up with food poisoning, something that can affect your health and well-being whether you’re pregnant or not.


When pregnant, women should remember to consume no more than 12 ounces of predator fish (tuna, shark, tilefish, king mackerel) per week because of their high methylmercury content (a chemical known to cause cerebral palsy, mental retardation and blindness).

10Smoked salmon

Just like cheese and luncheon meats, smoked salmon has been known to contain the harmful bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Other smoky no-nos include trout, whitefish, cod, tuna and mackerel.

More information on these exposures can be found on Questions or concerns from women in California can also be directed to the CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line at 800-532-3749. Outside of California, please call the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at 1-866-626-OTIS (6847).

More on risky foods for pregnant women

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