Food Standards Australia and New Zealand have advised all pregnant women to avoid eating unpastuerised fruit juice and tahini, this includes food items such as fresh juice and hummus or other dips containing tahini.

This advice is based on fears these products could cause listeria, a form of food poisoning, which in pregnant women can spread from the gut to the placenta.

Symptoms can be mild such as a fever, headache, diarrhoea and nausea, but listeria can also trigger meningitis (inflammation around the brain) or encephalitis (infection of the brain) which can cause headaches, stiff necks, and seizures.  It may also cause septicaemia, better known as blood poisoning.  It may also cause septicaemia, better known as blood poisoning.

The disease mainly affects the elderly, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and people with weakened immune systems.

“Fruit juice is something we all see as so healthy. It’s great nutritionally but there’s a risk when it comes to an important pathogen called listeria,” UNSW associate professor of Food Microbiology, Julian Cox, told the Morning Show.

“Unpasteurised juices that are pressed or blended and presented ready-to-drink, present a risk.”

“The average healthy adult, no problem at all. But when it comes to pregnancy and listeria, which can infect at low dose and have severe outcomes, it’s really best to avoid them.”

He said to avoid juices which are “cold pressed” or made fresh and to opt for supermarket juices that are packaged and pasteurised, meaning they’ve undergone a thermal treatment to kill bacteria.

The new advice also suggests hummus is not safe to consume for pregnant women because it contains tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds.

“The issue with hummus is the tahini,” associate professor Cox said.

“There have been a number of outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with tahini or foods containing tahini.”

He also warned against deli meats, raw seafood, unpasteurised dairy products, soft-serve ice-cream and prepacked fruit and vegetables.

“Food poisoning during pregnancy generally has more severe outcomes than for the average healthy adult,” he said.

Pregnant women are advised to keep the kitchen clean, bin leftovers after 24 hours and keep the fridge under 5C.

Read the full article from The Australian here.