Of all the foods I have written about, whether you can eat ham if you are pregnant wins the prize for having the most confusing and conflicting answers.
I tried to break down information on all types of ham and whether you can eat them while you are pregnant.
Is it permissible to eat ham while you are pregnant?
In pregnant women, hams that are cured should not be eaten. If they are from a deli counter, steaming hot ham is safer than cold, cooked ham.
Depending on where you are in the world, the advice on whether to eat pre-packaged ham in pregnancy is different.
Would you still be confused? I don’t think you will be blamed.
Depending on your country’s national health authority there are different definitions of ham and conflicting advice.
I decided to write up a complete guide to help pregnant women decide if they should eat ham.
Types of Ham You Should Avoid in Pregnancy
It is easy to start with the types of ham you should avoid, no matter which country you are in, as the advice on this is universal.
The Italians call cured ham ‘crudo’, so pregnant women should avoid eating it.
It is usually cold sliced and served as is, which is a common practice in most countries.
Anything that is air-dried or cured usually falls under this category:
- Parma Ham
- Serrano Ham
- Iberico Ham
- Black Forest Ham
- Country Ham or City Ham
- Smithfield Ham
- Cold smoked ham
The risk of parasites is one of the reasons why the above types of ham are not recommended.
The presence of salt, brine, nitrates and other ingredients make it difficult for parasites to survive, but not impossible.
It was found that cured Parma ham has a smaller risk of parasites than other hams. The longer the ham is cured, the less likely it is to become a problem.
If you cook any of the above hams, they will be safer to eat in pregnancy because of the parasites and listeria bacteria that may be present.
You might be wondering who would want to cook parma ham.
If it was on a pizza, cooked as part of the topping, and eaten steaming hot, it would be safe to eat.
- Iberico, prosciutto, Parma ham on a pizza if cooked steaming hot under the grill or oven or broiler.
- Cubed or cooked or fried Pancetta added to sauces or as a salad topping.
- Country, Smithfield, City Hams that are baked and served hot.
The advice for pregnant women regarding cold, cured, uncooked ham should be clear now. Unless it is cooked and served hot, you shouldn’t eat it.
The next thing to watch out for is how the ham is stored and served, regardless of whether it has been cooked or not.
Why Should Pregnant Women Avoid Deli Ham?
If you don’t cook or cure the ham yourself, you’ll probably be buying it to eat at home. In a deli, hams are pre-cut and carved from the bone or joint.
There is a risk of cross-contamination when buying ham or meat from a deli, both in the refrigerated display and on the slicing machine.
It’s only killed by cooking when it thrives under refrigerated conditions.
Although most businesses have strict Sanitation practices and are expected to maintain a high standard of hygiene, there is a larger risk of cross-contamination with other foodstuffs in the same fridge.
You don’t know how the hams have been stored, or how long they’ve been there, which could allow bacteria to grow.
The slicing machine may be contaminated if it is not cleaned properly.
I have a local deli that I like and trust, but I don’t know what happens to the hams after the store closes.
I have seen places that cover the hams lightly with greaseproof paper until the next morning, and other places that wrap and store the hams carefully.
There is a greater risk of listeria when you eat ham from a deli because you don’t know. This includes all kinds of ham, not just the uncured types.
It is up to you to decide, but pregnant women are usually advised to avoid eating deli ham cold for several reasons.
If you want deli ham to be safe to eat, you need to cook it thoroughly until it is steaming hot and kill any listeria bacteria.
Depending on the power level of your machine, microwaving the ham for 30-60 seconds will heat the meat to the “steaming hot” temperature that makes it safe.
If you want to check the temperature of the meat, you should look for an internal temperature of 75c.