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Pregnancy can be a confusing time, especially when it comes to what foods you can and cannot eat.
Many women wonder if it’s safe to indulge in their favorite deli meats, such as salami, while pregnant. After all, they’re packed with flavor and can make for a tasty sandwich.
But, as with many foods, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when it comes to salami and pregnancy.
In this article, we’ll explore the question, “Can pregnant women eat salami?” and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your pregnancy diet.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Salami?
Salami is a form of dried or fermented meat. Traditionally, salami is made from pork. However, you can find salami made from other types of meat.
Different cuts of the meat are combined to create the right ratio of lean to high fat meat. Seasonings and preservatives may be added at this point to add and preserve the flavor, color, and safety of the meat.
The salami casing is then allowed to dry and begin fermenting. The fermentation and seasons are what gives salami its unique flavor.
Is Salami Cooked?
While salami is not raw meat, it is not cooked in a traditional sense. Instead of heating to temperature high enough to kill bacteria, it is slowly dried in a temperature controlled environment to promote fermentation.
Like with beef jerky, the drying process is what gives salami its unique texture and flavor. However, it can increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if your immune system is already compromised.
Does Salami Contain Nitrates?
Nitrates are compounds that help preserve meat. Nitrates can also be found vegetables and in our water supply.
Some salami contains nitrates. Salami can be purchased as cured or uncured. These terms differentiate how the meat was preserved.
Uncured salami has still undergone preservation methods, but it is often from salt rather than nitrates. On the other hand, cured salami often contains nitrates and nitrites as a form of preservation.
The use of nitrates and nitrites in meat preservation is regulated by the FDA. All finished meat products must have less than 500ppm of sodium nitrate and 200ppm of sodium nitrite.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Nitrates?
According to the CDC, high exposure to environmental nitrates during pregnancy can increase the risk of anemia, preterm labor, and pre-eclampsia. There is also evidence that ingestion of nitrates and nitrites may be cancer-causing in humans.
However, nitrates and nitrites in fruits and vegetables may actually play a role in heart health.
There are no specific federal guidelines about nitrate consumption during pregnancy. However, the CDC recommends that pregnant women limit their intake of meats that contain nitrates and nitrites.
Listeria and Eating Salami in Pregnancy
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria commonly found in undercooked meats, refrigerated ready-to-eat foods, unpasteurized dairy products, and fruits or vegetables grown in soil contaminated with listeria.
Unlike many strains of bacteria, listeria can continue to grow at refrigeration temperatures.
Animals can carry listeria without showing any symptoms. When eaten, it may takes several days to weeks for symptoms to appear. Once infected with listeria, you can develop an illness called listeriosis.
Listeriosis can affect anyone, but some populations are at higher risk. People with compromised immune systems, such as pregnant women, older adults, and those with other chronic health conditions.
This bacteria is one of the more serious foodborne illnesses, especially for those who are pregnant.
Listeriosis can increase risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. In later pregnancy, it can increase the risk of early labor, maternal death, fetal brain damage, and fetal death.
What is my risk of getting listeria in pregnancy?
A commonly cited statistic is that pregnant women 13 times more likely to develop listeriosis than healthy, non-pregnant women. However, this is based on surveillance data from 2004-2009. At this time this article was written, the most recent data available was from 2014.
In 2014, there were 96 reported listeria cases among pregnant women. While the number of actual cases is relatively low, 30% of cases resulted in fetal or infant death.
The goal in sharing this information is to help guide your nutrition choices in pregnancy. Although the chances of you and your baby becoming sick from listeria is low, it can be very serious if infected.
I Had Some Salami During Pregnancy! Now What?
Don’t panic, mama. Your overall risk of developing listeria is still very low. Let your doctor or advanced practice provider know if you begin to develop any symptoms of listeria, such as:
- Myalgia, commonly known as muscle pains
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
It is most common to begin having symptoms within a few days of eating the contaminated food, but it can take up to 2 months for symptoms to appear.
Symptoms of listeria vary significantly from person to person, but are often mild in pregnant women. It is also possible to have the infection by to be asymptomatic.
Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about foodborne illness during pregnancy.
Are There Deli Meats That Are Safe During Pregnancy?
All uncooked deli meats increase your risk of foodborne illness in pregnancy. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Cook all deli meats to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) or until steaming hot.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water prior to handling food.
- Do not allow deli meats to sit outside of the refrigerator for any longer than 2 hours.
- Eat your cooked deli meat prior to the expiration date.
- Avoid using utensils on your cooked deli meat that have been in contact with raw or undercooked meats.
Can You Eat Cooked Salami When Pregnant?
According to the CDC, pregnant women can eat deli meats such as salami as long as they are cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or “steaming hot.”
However, the USDA recommends that deli meats, including salami, should not be returned to the refrigerator after being heated to steaming hot. Once you have heated the salami, it is important to eat it immediately.
Instead, only heat up the amount of salami that you want to eat in one serving. If you have any leftover, it’s best to throw it away to reduce your risk of illness.
Is Salami Safe in Pregnancy First Trimester?
Most reported cases of listeria in pregnancy are from women in their third trimester of pregnancy. However, this may be related to under-reported or undiagnosed listeria in early pregnancy.
You can reduce your risk of foodborne illness during your first trimester by heating the deli meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot.
Final Thoughts: Can Pregnant Women Eat Salami?
While it’s best to err on the side of caution during pregnancy, pregnant women can safely enjoy salami as long as it’s cooked and stored properly.
It’s important to choose nitrate and nitrite-free options and consume it in moderation.
As with any other food during pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. If you found this article helpful, we have more resources on pregnancy nutrition that you might find informative. Check out our other articles on the safety of beef jerky in pregnancy or pregnant breakfast ideas.