A recall is underway for a cookbook containing recipes for pregnant women made with ingredients the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) considers could be harmful in pregnancy.

The publisher of The Happy Baby Cookbook is conducting a voluntary recall and offering customers a full refund.

NZFSA principal public health advisor Donald Campbell says some foods that we normally think of as healthy and nutritious can be risky for pregnant women and their unborn baby. “Because a woman’s immune system is less robust than usual when pregnant, it makes her more at risk of getting diseases carried by food, and her illness may be worse than it would normally have been. Also her baby may get an infection either before or during delivery.”

One of the bacteria pregnant women and their babies are particularly susceptible to is Listeria, which is common in the environment and therefore can be present on raw food and contaminate prepared food. Listeria infection generally results in mild flu-like symptoms, but can in rare circumstances cause premature labour in pregnant women and life threatening infections in newborn babies.

As a result, NZFSA advises expectant mothers not to eat foods that have been linked to Listeria contamination, such as shaved ham and soft cheeses.

Dr Campbell says while it is vital for expectant mothers to eat a nutritious and varied diet, it is important that they know which of the foods they might normally eat may require extra care or be avoided altogether during pregnancy.

“Hummus for example is packed with protein, but because most hummus is made with tahini which has been associated with Salmonella outbreaks, we recommend that pregnant women don’t eat it.”

Other foods that are unsuitable for pregnant women to eat include soft cheeses, ready-to-eat foods from delicatessens or smorgasbords, raw fish and shellfish, cold cuts, deli salads, sushi and foods containing raw eggs.

NZFSA has produced a Food Safety in Pregnancy booklet, which can be obtained free from lead maternity caregivers or by phoning our consumer helpline on 0800 NZFSA1 (0800 693 721).

Customers wanting to return their copy of The Happy Baby Cookbook (ISBN 978-1-86396-959-8), which was on sale from 4 August 2009, can send it to the distributor, Southern Publishing Group, PO Box 8360, Symonds Street for a full refund plus postage costs.

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