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May 8, 2013 07:18 AM

Eating in Italy While Pregnant

I will be in Italy (Alba, Cinque Terre, and Pisa) at the end of May and will be 10 - 11 weeks pregnant. Here in the US, we are cautioned against eating unpasteurized cheeses and deli meats. Does the same thing hold true for Italian women? I want to eat as well as possible but also be safe. What specifically should I avoid, other than dishes with raw fish and raw eggs, and moldy cheeses? I would love to enjoy prosciutto and similar meats but want to be on the safe side. Are there any pregnancy-safe cheeses that you would recommend?

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  1. Pretty much the same rules apply (I have 2 children born in Italy) - the doctors recommend avoiding all cured salumi (prosciutto, salami, etc), but say that boiled products such as mortadella and coppa di testa are fine. At the end it is a personal choice - I ate some salumi every now and again from trusted producers (ie, I wouldn't eat it from some old guy making it in his basement) as well as unpasteurized cheeses... pregnant women in Japan eat raw fish all the time...! Btw, my doctor here actually advised me to drink a glass of wine a day. ;-)

    3 Replies
    1. re: LifeItalianStyle

      Thank you! Were you advised that it was okay to drink during the first trimester? I would like to taste some of the wines but will be in the tail end of my first tri.

      1. re: sw79

        I always did - but I definitely tried to limit it to one glass a day (and I didn't drink everyday). If you want to try different wines, just ask for smaller pours "poco" and tell the waiter that you are pregnant "sono incinta", that way you won't have the temptation of downing the whole glass... ;-)

      2. re: LifeItalianStyle

        Isn't it the case, though, that the recommendation to stay away from *cured* salami is made with respect to ones containing nitrates or nitrites? If so, you should be aware that most hams (prosciutto) and some salamis in Italy do not contain nitrates or nitrites. So you shouldn't necessarily assume that prosciutto or salami are categorically excluded, although if your grasp of Italian is poor it may be difficult to get a direct answer out of people as to whether a given product does or does not have nitrates or nitrites. I should also mention that you can sometimes identify these on labels using their e-numbers : E250 (sodium nitrite) and E252 (sodium nitrate).

      3. I wonder if your doctor has explained the reason of this caution and if you have been tested for toxoplasmosis. (see pregnancy caution


        Based on the test, which is routine for pregnant women in all western countries, if you have had toxo, you can eat cured meats. If you did not have toxo you better don't eat cured meats to avoid possible infections which could affect your baby.

        2 Replies
        1. re: madonnadelpiatto

          uncured meats has nothing to do with toxoplasmosis -- the risk associated with uncured meats is listeria, and yes, doctors in Europe are quite aware of it.

          Toxoplasmosis comes from handling the cat's litter box, which is what the Wiki you linked to says.

          Listeria is a bacterial infection, toxoplasmosis comes from parasites.

          Completely different issues.

          1. re: sunshine842

            actually, here in Norway it is recommended you stay away from raw/cured meats both because of listeria and toxoplasmosis. If the animal was infected there is a small chance of contracting it yourself.

            Toxoplasmosis and listeria can both lead to complications and premature birth

        2. I travelled to Rome during my first pregnancy, and had a lovely time.

          I stayed away from cured and uncooked meats, and unpasturized cheeses because of toxoplasmosis and listeria. Just weeks before I travelled a woman in my city lost her twins after eating cheese with the listeria bacteria.

          I also stayed away from wine/alcohol during my pregnancies, and personally I'd definately avoid it in the first trimester - but that's up to you. Ask your doctor about the risks and then make an informed choice you feel comfortable with.

          I had some amazing food during my stay, so it didn't ruin the experience for me :)

          1. Our long-planned trip to Rome for DH's 40th birthday turned out to be a baby-moon as well; I was 24w pregnant. I did some research ahead of time to find out what meats and cheeses were cooked/pasteurized - I actually had a cheat-sheet tucked into my purse! Unfortunately I don't remember what was on it, though I do recall having to stay away from pasta carbonara (raw egg). I had tastes of DH's wine but none of my own; I figured that was a decent compromise. I made up for it with gelato. :)