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CSU/OSU Project Aims To Help Pregnant Women Prevent Foodborne Illness

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Among the victims of the deadly listeria outbreak linked to Colorado cantaloupe was a pregnant who miscarried. Now Colorado State University and Ohio State University want to teach pregnant women how to protect themselves from foodborne illnesses.

“Most pregnant women don’t think of themselves as being at greater risk for foodborne illness during pregnancy. But because they are naturally immune-suppressed, they are more at risk for foodborne illnesses than other adults,” Lydia Medeiros said in a statement.

Medeiros is one of the project’s principal investigators and food safety specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

The universities developed “The Healthy Baby, Healthy Me” program for classrooms or clinics and they made it available on the Internet: http://foodsafety.osu.edu/curriculum/hbhm

Pregnant women are especially susceptible to listeria monocytogenes, toxoplasma gondii, salmonella and campylobacter.

“In our research we found that most pregnant women never made the connection between food safety and the health of the baby,” said Pat Kendall, Extension specialist and associate dean for research at CSU.

The pathogens can infect not only women but can cause problems for the unborn child, including miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as both physical and mental birth defects.

The program not only alerts pregnant women to the dangers, it also educates them about how to protect themselves and their babies.

“Pregnant women told us what they wanted to learn, and how they wanted to learn it,” Medeiros said.

The universities have been working on the project 2006 with $1.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They tested how well the program worked by teaching it at education programs in Columbus, Ohio and Pueblo and Greeley.

The researchers hope the lessons will now be used in a variety of settings, including doctors’ offices, prenatal classes, Women, Infant, Children (WIC) classes and extension programs.

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