Caesar salad contains romaine lettuce, garlic vinaigrette, Parmesan cheese, croutons and egg. Traditionally, the egg used in Caesar dressing is either coddled -- lightly cooked -- or raw. Pregnant women, who are significantly more vulnerable to the effects of foodborne illness, should generally avoid raw and undercooked egg because of the risk of salmonella. However, most commercially available Caesar dressings are made with cooked or pasteurized egg, making them safe for expectant mothers.
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The Caesar salad originated in Tijiuana, Mexico, where Italian chef Caesar Cardini reportedly pioneered the use of coddled egg in salad dressing. Cardini's original dressing recipe called for one raw egg, combined with a garlic vinaigrette made with Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. The finished salad quickly gained fame for its distinctive flavor, but undercooked or nonpasteurized egg in the classic recipe carries the risk of salmonella contamination.
Sarah Schenker, a registered dietitian, notes that raw and undercooked eggs may contain traces of salmonella. Schenker writes that salmonella will not directly infect the baby but can cause symptoms in the mother, including severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, dehydration and high fever. These symptoms could lead to miscarriage or preterm labor.
The American Pregnancy Association does not explicitly warn against the consumption of Caesar salad during pregnancy. The organization reports that almost all restaurants use pasteurized eggs, which have been treated to eliminate harmful bacteria, in recipes calling for raw egg. In fact, some jurisdictions, including California, have banned the use of raw egg in restaurants, which means that most Caesar salads in restaurants are safe for pregnant women to eat.
Before ordering a Caesar salad in a restaurant, ask if the establishment uses raw egg. Pregnant women should avoid all homemade Caesar salads unless the recipe is egg-free or uses a pasteurized egg product. Expectant mothers additionjally should avoid all other foods made with raw egg, including homemade mayonnaise, mousse and ice cream.