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Thanksgiving Safety for You and Baby

While your pregnancy may heighten this year's Thanksgiving festivities, it's also a reminder to take extra precautions with the holiday foods you eat. Pregnancy weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to food-borne illnesses that could make you sick and even harm your baby. Dangerous bacteria and parasites such as salmonella, listeria, toxoplasma, staphylococcus aureaus, and E. coli may be present in improperly prepared, cooked, and stored foods. Several of these, including listeria and toxoplasma, can cross your placenta and harm your baby even if you experience no symptoms.

Here are some tips to keep you and your baby safe during the Thanksgiving holiday:

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Turkey and Stuffing: If your turkey is frozen, defrost it in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in a warm oven; and wash the turkey before you handle it to help remove any bacteria on the skin. Don't rely on cooking time and skin color to determine when your turkey is done; you need to cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F. To get an accurate internal temperature, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh muscle without touching the bone. If you usually cook the stuffing inside the turkey, cook it separately this year. If the stuffing is inside the turkey it will not reach a high enough temperature to kill bacteria (165 degrees F).

Smoked meats and meat spreads: If you're serving meat spreads such as pâté, or smoked meats such as smoked salmon, use only canned. Smoked meats and meat spreads that are found in the deli or refrigerated section of your grocery store may contain listeria.

Carving Stations: If there is a carving station at a restaurant or party, make sure the meat is well-cooked and still steaming hot. Avoid sauces such as hollandaise, béarnaise, and aioli, which may contain uncooked eggs.

Unpasteurized soft cheeses: Avoid soft cheeses made with unpasteurized, or "raw" milk, which may contain listeria. Some soft cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, and it will say so on the label. If you are not able to check the label, it's best to steer clear of soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, goat cheese, Limburger, Montrachet, Neufchâtel, Pont L'Evêque, and Mexican-style cheese like queso fresco. You should also avoid semi-soft cheeses such as Asiago, Bel Paese, bleu, brick, Gorgonzola, Havarti, Muenster, Port Salut, Taleggio, and blue-veined cheeses such as Roquefort. If you're not sure whether a cheese is safe or not, stick with cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack.

Fruitcake and other alcoholic food items: Most desserts that use alcohol as an ingredient, such as fruitcake, are okay to eat because most of the alcohol burns off during cooking. However, if the dessert has been soaked in alcohol after baking, most of the alcohol will remain and you should avoid it.

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