In 2006, one person died and at least 94 more became ill after eating bagged, fresh spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria, according to USAToday.com. CBSNews.com describes a similar outbreak in 2009 that killed one person and sickened 50 more. Bacterial outbreaks such as these draw attention to the potential danger of eating bagged vegetables during pregnancy.
Vegetables in Pregnancy
Vegetables play a critical role in a healthy pregnancy. They provide important nutrients -- such as Vitamin C, potassium and folic acid -- that your growing baby needs. They also contain fiber, which aids digestion and lowers your risk of developing hemorrhoids and constipation. You should eat 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Include in your diet leafy and dark-colored vegetables in a wide variety of colors so that you get as many nutrients as possible.
While bagged, leafy greens may appear to be a convenient way to fit more vegetables into your diet, they carry risks. Fresh produce isn't sterile, points out the United States Department of Agriculture. Vegetables are exposed to disease-causing pathogens that naturally exist in their environment. Even worse, if they are grown with the aid of fertilizer made from animal feces, they are exposed to dangerous bacteria that appear in animal waste, such as E. coli and salmonella. With whole vegetables, you can simply remove the outer layer to eliminate most pathogens. But when leafy vegetables are harvested, chopped up, washed and bagged for sale, the process mixes bacteria on the outside of the plants throughout the produce, according to the food-handling safety website StateFoodSafety.com. The risk is compounded if produce from multiple fields are processed together. Even if only one field contains infected produce, all the vegetables processed together will become contaminated.
Contracting an infection from bacteria such as E. coli or Salmonella poses risks during pregnancy. In healthy adults, these infections typically cause stomach pain, diarrhea, fever and vomiting, and the symptoms resolve within a few days. But in pregnant women, these symptoms can easily lead to dehydration, which, in severe cases, can cause premature labor or a miscarriage. Pregnant women, with their lowered immune systems, are also more likely to develop serious complications, such as kidney damage from an E. coli infection. Severe infections may even be fatal.
Pregnant women shouldn't eat bagged, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce, to prevent infection from dangerous bacteria, according to the website BabyZone. If you do eat bagged vegetables, choose whole vegetables rather than vegetables that have been processed by being chopped or torn. Always wash vegetables thoroughly before eating them even if the bag states they were pre-washed. Remember, though, that washing doesn't remove all contaminants. Chopped leafy vegetables must be thoroughly cooked in order to kill resilient bacteria such as E. coli.
- USA Today: Washing Spinach Won't Help; Health Officials Struggle to Find Source of E. Coli
- CBS News: 1 Dead, 50+ Sick From Tainted Spinach
- BabyCenter: Fruits and Vegetables in Your Pregnancy Diet
- StateFoodSafety.com: Bagged Greens vs. Whole Greens -- Which Is Safer?
- March of Dimes: Food-Borne Risks in Pregnancy
- OTIS: E. Coli and Pregnancy
- BabyCenter: Is It Safe to Drink Eggnog During Pregnancy?
- BabyZone: What Not to Eat During Pregnancy