Can You Eat Cold Cuts When Pregnant? [Explained]

Verified by Edna Skopljak MD
Verified by Edna Skopljak MD

Edna Skopljak is a medical doctor and an editor at BJBMS medical journal. She graduated from the University of Sarajevo School of Science and Technology.

Cold cuts make for easy grab-and-go snacks and lunches. When expecting, convenience is also very important.

That being said, you may be wondering if you can eat cold cuts when pregnant.

Stick around to find out which deli meats pregnant women can consume, what happens if you eat cold cuts while pregnant, and if you can eat heated lunch meat when you’re pregnant.

Can You Eat Cold Cuts When Pregnant?

No, you should avoid eating cold cuts when pregnant because they can carry harmful bacteria.

Cold cuts in their natural refrigerated state can host dangerous bacteria that cause serious infections in expectant mothers and their babies. A common type of harmful bacteria found in cold cuts is listeria.

The only way to ensure that cold cuts are safe to eat is to remove the “cold” factor. Reheating cold cuts to an appropriate temperature should be enough to kill any lingering bacteria.

Another safety practice for handling cold cuts when pregnant is proper sanitization. The CDC recommends disinfecting your refrigerator, containers, and surfaces that may have come into contact with cold cuts.

By cleaning areas that the cold cuts might have touched, you reduce the risk of transferring the bacteria to the other foods you eat.

What Deli meats can I eat while pregnant?

When pregnant, you can eat deli meats that are properly reheated.

Deli meats straight from the counter or from the refrigerator should be avoided. This includes cold cuts of ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, or bologna.

If you take these cold meats and heat them until steaming hot, they should be clear of any health threats and safe for consumption.

The Mayo Clinic also states that pregnant women should avoid any refrigerated pates and meat spreads. Canned and shelf-stable alternatives, however, should be safe.

What Happens if You Eat Cold Cuts While Pregnant?

If you eat cold cuts while pregnant, you could contract infections that thrive in refrigeration, like listeriosis.

The FDA reports listeriosis as ten times more likely to infect pregnant women. Additionally, they confirm that ⅙ of all listeria cases have been found in expectant mothers.

If infected, mothers may be asymptomatic or have flu-like symptoms, but the infection could have severe effects on the fetus.

These adverse effects include miscarriage in the first trimester or can lead to premature labor, a baby with low birth weight, or infant death.

In the third trimester, listeriosis can cause more risks to the mother. In extreme cases, the infection can be fatal (FDA).

The best way to avoid food-borne infections brought on by cold cuts is to properly heat all deli meats.

Can You Eat Heated Lunch Meat While Pregnant?

Yes, you can eat heated lunch meat while pregnant. The CDC advises pregnant women to refrain from consuming cold lunch meats from deli counters unless reheated until steaming hot.

To ensure your deli meats are sufficiently heated, the internal temperature of the meat should be 165℉.

You should always eat reheated lunch meat as quickly as possible so that bacteria won’t have time to multiply as the meat cools down.


Pregnant women planning to eat cold cuts should always reheat these meats until steaming hot.

This reheating process will kill off any dangerous bacteria that can infect both the mother and baby.