Is it safe to eat lunch meat while pregnant?

Our experts answer your pregnancy questions.

Many people have heard that it’s not OK to eat raw meat (like sushi) when you’re pregnant, because it could harbor bacteria or parasites that would normally be killed by cooking. But it’s not as clear why you should be careful about lunch meat or deli meat. 

The turkey, the chicken, the ham you get from the deli counter is normally pre-cooked. But while it’s sitting there in the case, it could get bacteria from being handled. 

The main concern is Listeria. While your chances of getting infected with this bacteria are low and you’d typically get only flu-like symptoms, the consequences for your baby could be far worse—including being stillborn. 

But the good news for those of you with sandwich cravings is that all you have to do is cook the meat again. Make a fried baloney sandwich or a grilled ham and cheese. Just heat that meat up. It needs to be steaming, or 165 degrees F. If you get your sub toasted, that’s fine, too.  

The same goes for hot dogs, sausages and other cured meats like salami and prosciutto. It’s the Listeria you have to worry about if you eat them cold or at room temperature. Microwave them for a minute, taking care to microwave any plate you set them on as well. Or you can cook them in a pan until they get to 165 degrees.  


Melissa Kitzman, certified nurse-midwife

Fairview Clinics – Bloomington, Oxboro
Fairview Center for Women – Edina 

To learn more:

 Make an appointment with a midwife or OB doctor or book a tour at The Birthplace.

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