You’re asked to sacrifice a lot when you get pregnant. First your body, then your food and drink. Pregnant moms are usually told to avoid foods like unpasteurized milks, certain seafoods, and soft cheeses, but if you’re craving your favorite roast beef sandwich, you might ask, can I eat Arby’s sandwiches while pregnant? I mean — what are you supposed to do if your baby is making you crave that classic Arby's meal with plenty of Arby's sauce? (And I do mean plenty.)
Because most of Arby’s menu is focused on deli meats, you might want to be a little cautious when ordering a sandwich. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), luncheon meats like roast beef and turkey aren’t very safe for pregnant women. The reason, according to the APA, is because these cold cuts may be contaminated with listeria, which can be very harmful for you and your baby. Experts advise pregnant women to heat their lunch meats to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming.
In an interview with Romper, Long Island microbiologist and food safety expert, Irrem Jamal M.Sc, says that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listeria is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States. Jamal explains that the bacteria L. monocytogenes is what causes listeriosis in immune compromised individuals — including pregnant women, children, and the elderly — when they ingest it through improperly cooked or heated food sources, like deli meats.
"The bacterium is a big concern at the food preparation step," explains Jamal, "where cross contamination from unclean surfaces can spread bacteria and where lurking bacteria in uncooked meat can grow during refrigeration." For example, she adds, if cheese and cold cuts are prepared on the same table, there is a possibility of picking up the bacteria from there as well.
Jamal says that listeria bacteria can be killed if deli meats are recooked before serving, but because most restaurants, like Arby’s, don’t usually reheat or recook their deli meats, their cold sandwiches can put you at risk for listeriosis, especially if you are pregnant.
You've been eating deli meats forever without getting sick, so why the fuss during pregnancy? It turns out that pregnancy puts you more at risk for getting listeriosis. The CDC found that pregnant women are 20 times more likely to get infected with listeriosis compared to people who are healthy and not pregnant.
While eating a sandwich seems harmless, and while the thought of infection may not seem super serious, it's important to realize the risks associated with listeria. The APA noted that a listeriosis infection in a pregnant woman can cross the placenta and cause infection in her baby. The infection can even cause blood poisoning, or in some circumstances, it can lead to a miscarriage.
So what's a sandwich loving, pregnant mom to do? "The infection can be avoided by simply taking precautionary steps," says Jamal, "including trying to avoid eating uncooked meat slices and cheese made from raw milk." She suggests that during pregnancy, if you are really craving a deli meat sandwich like one from Arby's, make sure it is coming from a well-known source or facility that has good hygiene practices and serves fresh food. Because this may be hard to gauge, you can try to ask your local Arby's to recook or reheat your meat if they can, to prevent any risks.
You also have other options and choices while at Arby's. They have delicious sandwiches on their menu that should be perfectly safe to enjoy during pregnancy — ones that don't contain deli meat. They also offer crispy fried chicken sandwiches and salads, not to mention their infamous curly fries and milkshakes. So as long as you know the risks involved, you can still hit up your nearest Arby’s — just make sure it’s only your drinks that are cold.
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