Are barbecues ok if you’re pregnant?

So you’re three months pregnant and it’s time to tell friends you’re expecting. You’d like to celebrate with them and you’ve been invited to a friend’s barbecue next weekend. What better way to celebrate than when all your friends are gathered together.

There’s just one niggling doubt as far as you’re concerned. You’re wondering whether it would be safe to eat barbecued food – or would it be best for you to stay away altogether and have the celebration in the local Chinese restaurant?

Well, no actually there’s no need to take such drastic measures. And here’s why:

You can still eat barbecue food when you’re pregnant. The only thing you really have to watch out for is to ensure that any meat you eat has been cooked properly (otherwise harmful bacteria can develop on burgers etc).

Although this type of food poisoning won’t actually harm your baby it will make you extremely ill (which you can well do without at this stage). Being pregnant and with a resultant lowered immune system makes you particularly susceptible to picking up any type of illness such as this.

What could harm your baby however is eating undercooked pork or lamb. So, really, both these meats should be avoided just to be on the safe side.

Other measures you can take to ensure any barbecue isn’t harmful to you or your baby is:

  • Make sure any frozen food has been properly thawed prior to cooking
  • Insist that raw and cooked meat are handled with separate forks and other utensils
  • Ask how the meat has been stored in the fridge ie it should be on the bottom shelf so that it doesn’t drip onto other foodstuffs on higher up shelves
  • Has the meat been covered just prior to cooking so that insects won’t have had a chance to land on it?
  • During preparation, was the meat cut and plated separately from the vegetables and pasta dishes etc?
  • Make sure any meat you eat eg burgers, kebabs etc are cooked right through (even if the food is being reheated)
  • Is your host turning the meat regularly on the barbecue and moving it around so that it’s being cooked evenly? Just because it’s charred on the outside doesn’t mean it’s cooked right through
  • Did your host wash her or his hands after handling the raw meat and before touching bread rolls, vegetables or other foodstuffs?
  • Prior to cooking, did the coals on the barbecue (if using a coal-fired version) seem roasting hot?

The above are just a few pointers. Others would be to avoid using any condiments as they may have been used on raw meat prior to cooking (although ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard are acidic, so shouldn’t really pose too much of a problem).

Do make sure though that salad, milk, yogurt and desserts are cold prior to eating. If they’ve been sitting out in the sun for too long then, just like the condiments, it’s probably best to avoid them altogether. Fresh fruit comes into this category too. If it’s not eaten within a couple of hours of appearing at the barbecue then again, take a rain check.

On the whole though, being pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself at a gas or charcoal barbecue as much as the next person. It just means being a little more careful and scrupulous about your host’s preparation methods. And we bet you’re just bursting to tell everyone your good news anyway…