Pregnant Hispanic women are even more likely than non-Hispanic pregnant women to get a Listeria infection. This is probably caused by eating traditional soft cheese, such as “queso fresco,” and other traditional foods made with milk that is unpasteurized. Brands of these traditional foods made with pasteurized milk are available in stores and online.
Certain foods – including ready-to-eat refrigerated foods, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and foods made with unpasteurized milk – often may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (LM), the third leading cause of death from food poisoning. These foodborne bacteria can grow at refrigerator temperatures and can cause an illness that in most healthy people is unpleasant but not serious. But in people who are at high risk, LM can cause an illness called listeriosis which can be severe and even lead to death. The people at high risk include pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborns, older adults, and other persons with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes or kidney disease, and transplant patients.
While a pregnant woman may have only a mild, flu-like illness, or may not feel sick at all, listeriosis can lead to miscarriage, death of the unborn baby, a low-birth weight infant, health problems for the newborn, or even infant death. That’s why reducing risks from Listeria is so important.