Pregnancy is one of the most important times in your life to be concerned about food safety. During pregnancy, the safe-food-pregnancy.jpgimmune system is weakened, putting pregnant women at higher risk of contracting foodborne illnesses such as listeria, methylmercury, and Toxoplasma. Fortunately, there are many great resources to help consumers find out which foods are safe to consume, and which are contaminated. A great resource is the FDA’s website, which lists all of the recalled foods and provides guidelines on important food safety information. 

Since most of us can’t produce our own food (most of us don’t have farms in our backyards) it’s hard to know if the food we are consuming was processed in clean facilities and was handled properly and safely. Fortunately, technology is advancing to make the food industry more transparent.

One of these advancements is a new tracking system for fish which helps consumers make informed decisions about seafood purchases. This seafood tracing system called “This fish,” allows customers to enter a code into a website or scan a quick-response code on the package using their smartphones. The system will tell you the boat and crew that caught the fish, where it was caught, what the fishing method was, and information about the company that processed it. It even lets consumers send notes directly to the fishermen who caught the fish. Technology will soon allow everyone to scan produce in local supermarkets to ensure that is truly is organic and local if that’s what the label states. This technology is already available in other countries, for example in Germany, where meat co-operative Westfleisch reportedly offers a “Trace ’n Face” system that lets shoppers see a photograph of the pork producer by scanning the label with their cell phones.

Retailers may use tracking technology to ensure that the mercury content of a certain fish species is within food safely limits- but this feature is not yet available to the public. The reason is that if this information is offered to uneducated consumers, people may not buy a product if, for example, it contains mercury- even if it’s only a small amount and within safe limits. This would be a useful tool for educated pregnant women, but until then, continue to stick to the guidelines of consuming 12 oz of fish per week and avoiding the ones we know are high in mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish). 

The best way to prevent foodborne illness during pregnancy is to follow the FDA’s food safety recommendations, such as avoiding cold cuts, cooking meat thoroughly, washing fruits and vegetables well, and avoiding recalled foods. To go a step further, tracking your food is a good (and fun) way to see where your food actually came from- it can’t hurt to be an informed consumer, especially during pregnancy.

Source: The Globe and Mail