KATIE FILION: Listeria, pregnancy and Robert Pattinson

Last night I watched The Bad Mother’s Handbook, a British made-for-TV drama starring Robert Pattinson. In it, Pattinson plays a lovable nerd, Daniel, who falls in love with pregnant teenager, Charlotte. 

Though Pattinson’s role is only supporting, he has a food safety moment when he runs to pregnant Charlotte, saving her from soft serve ice cream:

Daniel Gale (Pattinson): NO! Listeria can be present in soft cheese and squidgy ice cream, so you best get a Zoom instead.

What Pattinson’s character fails to mention is why the pregnant Charlotte should avoid indulging in this tasty treat.  Listeriosis, the illness associated with Listeria monocytogenes, can be passed from mother to unborn child causing premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth or serious health problems in newborns, even when the mother is not experiencing symptoms of illness.  The CDC has a list of foods to avoid while pregnant (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/pregnancy_gateway/infection_list.htm#protect).

Foods on the list include luncheon meats and soft cheeses, and although the CDC list does not mention soft serve, several studies (Sydney 1996, Wisconsin 2003) have found soft serve to have dangerous levels of coliforms and other bacteria (associated with improper equipment sanitation and poor hygiene). Australia and New Zealand list soft serve ice cream as one of the foods pregnant women should avoid consuming.

So, like Daniel said, have a Zoom instead.