“Can pregnant women eat pork?” is a food-safety question we see from many mamas-to-be in the Peanut community. In case it’s something you’ve been wondering too, we figured we’d take a moment to tackle it in all the necessary detail.
Once you get through this, you’ll know all there is to know, and even be able to advise other mamas-to-be on when it’s safe to eat pork while pregnant, and when it’s wiser to give it a miss.
In this article 📝
- Is it safe to eat pork while pregnant?
- What are the risks of eating pork while pregnant?
- Which types of pork are safe during pregnancy?
- Which types of pork are not safe during pregnancy?
Is it safe to eat pork while pregnant?
Like most of these questions, the answer is: it depends.
The key factor is how the pork has been prepared.
The question you need to ask yourself is: has this pork been cooked through completely to at least 160F before I eat it?
Yes? Dive in.
No? Pass it on.
Don’t know? Best to stay safe and avoid.
Let’s break this down.
What are the risks of eating pork while pregnant?
Like many foods, raw pork can pick up a whole range of bacteria, parasites, and other germs.
There are many different types, but one of the big hitters is a type of bacteria called listeria.
Listeria can cause food poisoning and infection even in non-expectant people.
During pregnancy though, your immune system is weakened, and you and your little one are a lot more vulnerable.
If you accidentally consumed listeria before you were pregnant, you might have got nothing worse than a bad case of the runs.
But when you’re pregnant, you’re unlikely to get off so easily, and you run the risk of getting an infection called listeriosis.
This can cause some serious pregnancy complications, from miscarriage to premature labor and stillbirth, and your own health would be at risk too.
Worth avoiding, right?
But, cooking pork (and other meats) to temperatures above 160F kills any listeria and any other nasties lurking unnoticed, making it completely safe even while you’re pregnant.
Which types of pork are safe during pregnancy?
So, now you know the cooking rule, how do you know if the tasty pork you’re about to satisfy your latest pregnancy craving with has been cooked to this ridiculously specific sounding heat?
160F? How on earth are you supposed to know?
This is where (if you don’t have a thermometer) judging by the type of pork can come in handy.
The types of pork that do get cooked and served hot include:
- Pulled pork that’s been roasted, like at a barbecue
- Boiled pork (again, it needs to be cooked through)
- Pork roast (not pink or underdone)
- Pork ribs (no pink bits)
- Bacon that’s been fried or grilled (although you might want to keep this limited to manage your saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Cholesterol won’t give you listeriosis, but it’s not great in the long run either.)
- Pork chops (same as above on the fat intake, maybe consider cutting off the fat)
- Pork sausages (served hot and likewise on the fat limits)
If the pork option you’re trying to decide on is one of these, or any type served piping hot and cooked through, you should be safe to tuck in.
Which types of pork are not safe during pregnancy?
If the types of pork that are safe to eat during pregnancy have been cooked through and served hot, it should hopefully follow that the types of pork that are not safe are those that have not been cooked.
In other words, pork that has been cured, salted, or smoked instead of cooked, or been left pink or underdone.
(Or obviously raw. We hope we don’t need to convince you of this one)
Some trickier examples to avoid are:
- Prosciutto and salami
- Other smoked or cured hams, or cold deli porks
- Smoked pulled pork that hasn’t been roasted or has stood for a long time (pulled pork tacos for example)
The good news is that cooked or roasted ham (as long as it is in date and has been kept refrigerated properly) is usually safe.
So, can pregnant women eat smoked or cured pork?
Smoked pork, such as smoked hams that are served cold have not been cooked, so these are a no.
Some types of pork may be dried or cured as part of their preparation, but then still get cooked through afterward.
These should be safe.
Otherwise, cured porks are also on the avoid list.
Can pregnant women eat cold pork?
Any food left standing for long periods is open to being contaminated by bacteria.
So here what matters is that it was cooked to a high enough temperature, it had proper refrigeration, and it had hygienic storage.
For example, ground pork is certainly cooked before going into dumplings.
But it might not be cooked to the high heat required to sterilize it completely.
It can also then stand on a shop or restaurant shelf that might not be cold enough to prevent contamination.
If you’re not sure of how something has been stored after being cooked, it’s often safest to leave it alone.
The same is true for leftover pork. If it has been reheated completely through to a high enough heat, it should be fine.
If not, or you can’t be sure, it’s better to leave it.
And while we’re at it, pregnancy is definitely not the time to develop a taste for pink or underdone pork.
When we say cooked, we mean cooked through.
So there you have it! The simple 160F secret to when pork is safe while pregnant and when it isn’t.
If you’re looking for some more healthy and safe options, check out our list of over 80 pregnancy meal ideas.
More on pregnancy foods:
Can Pregnant Women Eat Hot Dogs?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Pepperoni?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Deli Meat?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Salami?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Scallops?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Bacon?
Can You Eat Medium Rare Steak While Pregnant?
Can You Eat Spicy Food While Pregnant?
Can You Eat Mayo While Pregnant?
Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?