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Mortadella during Pregnancy


Pregnancy and Mortadella

Mortadella during pregnancy: introduction

Pregnancy is a very delicate special physiological condition, in which the diet can have a positive or negative influence on the unborn child; in this article we will focus on the relevance or otherwise of mortadella during pregnancy.

Many people think that mortadella, as a sausage, should be totally excluded from the pregnant woman's diet; this is because, among the various dangers during pregnancy, there are also the fearful food diseases (infections, poisoning, toxic infections and parasitosis of food origin) and the risks linked to the intake of food additives.

Cured meats, cold cuts and sausages (meat preserved raw) are risky during pregnancy due to:

  • The presence of pathogens in raw materials
  • The possible absence of cooking, which does not guarantee the healthiness of the finished food
  • The presence of problematic additives.

However, it must be remembered that mortadella, being cooked, may not have the same risk index as meat preserved raw. Let's go into more detail.


Dangers of foodborne illness during pregnancy

The most dangerous foodborne illnesses during pregnancy are those that can compromise, even irreversibly, the health of the unborn child. In reality, any pathology, depending on the severity, can interfere with the success of the pregnancy. However, most of these act indirectly, significantly debilitating the mother's state of health or preventing the correct nutrition necessary for fetal development. Fortunately, only a few foodborne diseases are capable of directly affecting the health of the unborn child; this does not mean that this possibility should be taken lightly.

Pregnant women must pay close attention, above all, to avoid contracting two pathologies, toxoplasmosis and listeriosis:

  • Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by Toxoplasma gondii. If the infection occurs during pregnancy, in 30% of cases it crosses the placenta and reaches the baby; as gestational age increases, the chances of infection of the fetus also increase. There is therefore a high probability that the unborn child will manifest the so-called congenital toxoplasmosis; this can lead to fetal malformations (especially neurological), premature birth, abortion and death of the child
  • Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused mainly by Listeria monocytogenes and marginally from L. ivanovii e L. grayi. Listeria, having entered the intestine orally and subsequently spread into the bloodstream, can proliferate (initially without symptoms) in the vagina and uterus. Symptoms become evident only in the third month of a possible pregnancy and last 7-10 days. Among the most fearful consequences of listeriosis are: spontaneous abortion, premature birth and potentially lethal infection of the newborn. 30% of listeriosis cases affect pregnant women and 22% of severe forms contracted during pregnancy cause fetal loss or neonatal death; mothers tend to survive.

Insights into Toxoplasmosis

In healthy adults (including non-pregnant women), toxoplasmosis infection usually causes no obvious symptoms. Occasionally, mild flu-like symptoms appear, including muscle pain and swollen lymph nodes. In a small number of people, eye problems may develop. Toxoplasma infection, even in healthy people, does not cure in the strict sense of the term. The parasite isolates itself within the muscles and remains under control for life thanks to the action of the immune system. Severe symptoms such as seizures and coordination difficulties may occur in immunosuppressed patients. Toxoplasmosis infection generally occurs by consuming raw or undercooked food that contains the parasite's cysts, by exposure to infected cat feces and, as we have said, from mother to child during pregnancy. Rarely, this disease can be spread by blood transfusion. It is not otherwise spreadable between people. The parasite reproduces sexually only among cats but can infect most warm-blooded animals, including humans, of course. The diagnosis is easy; a blood test is done for specific antibodies or amniotic fluid tested (amniocentesis) for parasite DNA.

Prevention of toxoplasmosis simply consists in respecting basic hygiene rules and completely cooking food. Pregnant women are advised to avoid cleaning cat litter and gardening, especially with bare hands and before meals. For normal people, not affected by pregnancy, no treatment is usually necessary. During pregnancy, however, to minimize the risks associated with the pathology, spiramycin or pyrimethamine/sulfadiazine and folinic acid are administered.

Half the world's population has been infected with toxoplasmosis but has not developed any symptoms.

Insights into Listeriosis

Listeria is a ubiquitous (ubiquitous) pathogen that is transmitted primarily orally due to ingestion of contaminated food products. In healthy people it is responsible for food-related pathologies such as gastroenteritis; in people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, newborns and the elderly, however, it can penetrate the body passing through the intestine and causing bacteremia, systemic or central nervous system infections (meningitis, meningoencephalitis, brain abscess, cerebritis, etc. ).

Listeriosis manifests itself with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, fever, muscle pain, stiff neck, confusion, convulsions and, as we have seen, pregnancy complications. Symptoms related to septicemia can occur even two months after ingestion.

The prevention of listeriosis for pregnant women is essentially of a food hygiene nature; it is advisable to avoid unpasteurized pâtés, raw minced sausages and high-risk foods such as blue or moldy, soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, camembert, bleu. The diagnosis of listeriosis requires the detection of the bacterium in the blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid. Treatment includes prolonged administration of antibiotics, mainly ampicillin and gentamicin, to which the body is usually sensitive.

Mortadella additives: are they harmful during pregnancy?

For many years, mortadella has been produced with the addition of various types of additives. These include: colourants, artificial flavours, flavor enhancers, powdered milk, phosphates, antioxidants and other types of preservatives. However, recently there has been a reversal of the trend, mainly caused by alarmism about the hypothetical unhealthiness of these ingredients. Attention was mainly focused on the additives: E450 (diphosphates), E451 (triphosphates) and E452 (polyphosphates).

In reality, as scientific research shows, within the limits imposed by law these additional ingredients are totally harmless. At high doses they appear to be responsible for a decrease in intestinal calcium absorption, metabolic and digestive compromises and hyperactivity.

On the other hand, to satisfy the needs of the most scrupulous mothers, today the food industry has modernized the mortadella recipe by depriving it of most additives, including the much feared phosphates.


Is mortadella allowed during pregnancy?

Yes. Commercial mortadella, fresh, well preserved and just opened is considered safe. It is different for homemade products, however very rare in the case of mortadella. It is also advisable to avoid foods that have been open for a long time, exposed to the air and have previously come into contact with worktops or been handled.

Due to the deep and total cooking system that characterizes mortadella, as in the case of cooked ham, cooked shoulder, roast turkey and frankfurters, this minced sausage is also allowed in the diet of pregnant women. The heat treatment is sufficiently intense and prolonged to destroy any parasites, such as Toxoplasma gondii (even in the form of cysts), and the most dangerous bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes. Fortunately, this last microorganism is of the Gram positive type (it does not have heat-stable endotoxins), non-spore-forming (it does not produce heat-stable spores) and multiplies effectively only around 30 °C, while it dies completely at pasteurisation temperatures (75- 85 °C); this means that, unlike other bacteria, it is only dangerous when it is alive.

Even with regards to the presence of food additives, mortadella is considered safe. Today most recipes completely exclude the presence of phosphates but, even if this were not the case, we remember that the concentrations permitted by the legal parameters do not have any type of contraindication for the health of consumers, not even during pregnancy.

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