During pregnancy, the food you eat nourishes both you and your unborn child. Getting an adequate supply of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals is essential. Conch, a shellfish, provides significant amounts of protein, folate, vitamin E, magnesium and other nutrients. Despite the nutritive value of this food, it carries several risks if it is not prepared properly.
Foodborne Illness Dangers
Raw and undercooked shellfish, such as oysters and conch, are the leading cause of seafood-borne illness, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Conch can be contaminated with coliform and vibrio bacteria. Both of these bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and cramping, even in non-pregnant individuals.
Potential Dangers of Raw Conch
Eating raw or undercooked conch can put both you and your unborn baby at risk. Because your immune system is weak and your baby’s immune system is not fully developed, you both can have problems fighting off infections. With foodborne illness, you might simply experience nausea and vomiting. Some individuals, however, might experience more severe side effects, including miscarriage, premature labor or death.
Safe Ways to Enjoy Conch
While you should avoid eating raw conch dishes, you can eat fully cooked conch during your pregnancy. In place of raw conch salad or conch ceviche, try conch fritters or fried conch sandwiches. You can also enjoy conch stew or conch chowder. Just be sure that the conch reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill any microbes that can cause foodborne illness.
Red Tide Dangers
Conch are also susceptible to red tide, a high-concentration of microscopic algae that impacts coastal areas periodically. This type of algae cannot be killed by cooking, so it is best to avoid eating conch that comes from areas with a red tide bloom. Consuming conch with red tide toxins can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, a serious illness.
- American Pregnancy Association: Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: While You’re Pregnant -- What Is Foodborne Illness?
- FoodSafety.gov: Checklist of Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
- MDtravelhealth.com: Bahamas
- Vineyard Gazette: Island Escapes Toxic Red Tide
- The Flavors of the Florida Keys: Linda Gassenheimer and Sandy Levy
- Cruising Chef Cookbook: Michael Greenwald and Marcy Raphael
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Nutrient Data for 15250 Mollusks, Conch, Baked or Broiled
- Minnesota Department of Health: Causes and Symptoms of Vibrio Infection
- Vermont Department of Health: Coliform Bacteria in Water