Cranberry sauce is a staple dish on the Thanksgiving Day table. Many recipes for this tart treat allow the use of either fresh or frozen cranberries. Yet, lately there has been some concern about the safety of frozen fruits, especially for expecting moms. If cranberry sauce is your jam, you might be asking, can you eat frozen cranberries if you're pregnant this Thanksgiving?
To be clear, cranberries themselves do not pose a risk for pregnant mothers. In fact, a recent study by Kristine Heitmann from the University of Bergen found that cranberries were not associated with increased risk for congenital malformations, stillbirth/neonatal death, low birth weight, small for gestational age, preterm birth, low Apgar score, neonatal infections, or maternal vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy. The concern is the safety of frozen fruits and vegetables in general, and cranberries in particular, because of their increased use in recipes during the holidays.
Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that 42 different brands of frozen fruits and vegetables packaged at CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, WA, and sold at popular grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Costco, were being voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer because the products had the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria is a serious infection that primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Listeria can cause meningitis, and in pregnant women can also lead to miscarriages, premature delivery, stillbirth, and life-threatening infections of their newborns. The contamination is typically spread through foods with animal origins, and what is most concerning is that many infected animals show no signs of illness. Once the bacteria finds its way into food processing factories, it can live there for a number of years, according to the CDC.
Frozen cranberries were on the extensive recall list provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Washington Post noted that one of the biggest concerns, even months later, is that the long shelf-life of these products means consumers may still have some of these items in their freezers. It's best to check your own freezer, and pass the information down to anyone who may have frozen cranberries on deck for the holiday season.
No matter which cranberries you plan to use to make your sauce this year, you will want to make sure you are following food safety guidelines. According to an NPR report, listeria can be killed with proper cooking. You must use a food thermometer to make sure the sauce reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, you should adopt that rule for all of your cooked food to prevent foodborne illnesses, whether you are pregnant or not. For more information on listeria please visit the CDC's website.