Smoked salmon in pregnancy: yes or no?

In this post, we look into the question of consuming smoked salmon while you are pregnant to understand if it is safe to eat or not, and what you should keep in mind in order not to put yourself and your baby at risk.

If you are reading this article, you are probably interested in knowing if, from a hygienic, nutritional and toxicological point of view, there are any contraindications regarding the consumption of smoked salmon during pregnancy.

Below we will try to clarify the subject by answering the doubts and questions that pregnant women have on this subject and we will ask them based on scientific sources, cited at the end of the article.

Types of smoked salmon

Smoking is a flavoring technique which serves to give food the typical aroma of smoked foods, but above all it is a very ancient method of preserving food which today is carried out according to two main methods: cold smoking and cold smoking. heat.

Unfortunately in our country, almost all the salmon sold is cold smoked: hot smoking gives the fish a particular color and flavor that is little appreciated by us, unlike what happens in Northern Europe.

Below we see in more detail the difference between hot smoking and cold smoking.

Hot smoking

Hot smoking involves not only the flavoring of the food, but also its cooking: we speak of hot smoking when the temperature of the smoke ranges from 40°C upwards, with exposure ranging from a minimum of 2 hours to 4 consecutive hours.

Hot smoking drastically reduces the risk of finding dangerous bacteria in fish and is marked with the wording “hot smoked salmon” on the package.

In the Italian market it is rare to find hot smoked products, to date this type of product is mainly present in the northern European markets.

Cold smoking

The cold smoking method aims above all at giving the food good flavor thanks to the prolonged exposure to the fumes: this technique allows the flavors to concentrate in the heart of the food thanks to the cold smoke which, unlike the hot one, does not disperse towards the ‘high and tends to stay longer in contact with the food, adding flavor to it: the cold smoking of salmon takes place between about 22° and 25° and lasts about 8-10 hours.

Cold-smoked salmon isn’t fully cooked through, which results in a bright color, smooth texture, and strong, fishy flavor. This type is often served with spreads, salads, or on top of bagels and toast.

In addition to giving a characteristic taste, cold smoking has a slight bactericidal and disinfectant action, for this reason in the past smoking was also used to increase the preservation times of meat. However, cold smoking does not cook foods, but only modifies them in the most superficial layer.

Cold smoking is the most used process for products on the Italian market.

Hot and cold smoking, in summary

With the cold smoking process, salmon is undercooked or not cooked at all, while hot-smoked salmon, if prepared correctly, should be fully cooked.

Because of the health risks of eating raw fish, pregnant women shouldn’t eat cold-smoked salmon .


In grocery stores or on restaurant menus, it is common to see various smoked salmon products. Sometimes these products are packaged in vacuum bags or tin cans and sometimes the food labels indicate the smoking method. In some cases, these products are even pasteurized (a process that eliminates microorganisms that cause food spoilage or are a food safety concern).

If you’re not sure whether a product has been hot or cold smoked, it’s best to check or avoid eating it.

Smoked salmon pâté

Cold smoked salmon pate is not safe for pregnant women , and care should be taken with smoked salmon spreads, sauces or cream cheese flavorings, as they may contain unpasteurised ingredients and/or smoked salmon chunks. cold, all of which are not suitable for pregnant women.

Smoked salmon sushi during pregnancy

Smoked salmon sushi should be viewed in the same way as any other slice of smoked salmon: if it is cold smoked and uncooked it should be avoided.

Sushi containing hot smoked salmon that has been thoroughly cooked is safe, provided it has not been mixed with other ingredients that may not be pasteurized, such as mayonnaise .

In summary

Is it okay to eat smoked salmon while pregnant? Yes, as long as it is hot smoked, i.e. cooked during smoking. Cold smoked salmon, being smoked at a low temperature, is not fully cooked through and therefore unsafe.

What Are The Health Effects Of Eating Smoked Salmon While Pregnant?

Salmon has excellent nutritional characteristics, but it is not an irreplaceable or indispensable food in the diet of pregnant women. Therefore, if it cannot be safely consumed, it can be replaced with other foods of the same type, such as blue fish: sardines, mackerel, bonito, anchovies, sardines, garfish, lanzardo, horse mackerel, leerfish, greenhouse, dolphinfish, allerato, tumba, etc. .

Nutritional profile of smoked salmon

A 100 gram serving of smoked salmon provides several beneficial nutrients for pregnant women:

  • Calorie: 117
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Protein: 18 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Vitamin B12: 136% of the recommended daily amount in the diet
  • Vitamin D: 86% of the recommended daily amount in the diet
  • Vitamin E: 9% of the recommended daily dietary amount
  • Selenium: 59% of the recommended daily dietary amount
  • Iron: 5% of the recommended daily dietary amount
  • Zinc: 3% of the recommended daily dietary amount

Smoked salmon is rich in many of the nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development of the fetus, such as iodine and vitamins B12 and D.

Compared to other sources of protein it is relatively rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (DHA plays a particularly important role during pregnancy by contributing to the development of the fetal brain). In addition, several scientific reviews of fish intake during pregnancy show that the benefits of consuming fish that are low in mercury outweigh the potential risks to infant brain development.

Risks associated with eating smoked salmon while pregnant

High risk of listeria

Eating raw or undercooked fish such as cold smoked salmon can cause various viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. This is especially true for pregnant women, who are up to 18 times more likely to get Listeria than the general population .

This disease – caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria – can pass directly to the fetus via the placenta.

Although the symptoms in pregnant women themselves range from very mild to severe, the disease can cause serious and even life-threatening side effects for the fetuses, such as:

  • part premature
  • low birth weight of newborns
  • meningitis (inflammation around the brain and spinal cord)
  • spontaneous abortions

Some signs of Listeria in pregnant women include flu-like symptoms, fever, fatigue and body aches.

If you notice these symptoms while pregnant and think you may have Listeria disease , contact your doctor right away.

To reduce the risk, it is best to avoid raw or undercooked fish such as cold-smoked salmon: listeria does not die when smoked or frozen. To have a complete guarantee that the Listeria bacteria has been killed, you should also heat the smoked salmon to 74℃ before eating it.

High risk of parasitic worms

Eating raw or undercooked salmon also carries a risk of parasitic infections.

One of the most common parasites in raw or undercooked salmon is tapeworms.

Tapeworms can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and sudden and extreme weight loss. They can also cause nutrient deficiencies and intestinal blockages.

The best way to kill parasites such as tapeworm in salmon is to freeze the fish at -35℃ for 15 hours or heat it to 63℃.

Risks deriving from the high sodium content

Both cold and hot smoked salmon are initially salted. Therefore, the final product is often high in sodium.

Depending on specific curing and preparation methods, 100 grams of smoked salmon may contain 30% or more of the maximum recommended daily intake of sodium (2,300 mg).

A high-sodium diet during pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia , both of which have dangerous side effects for both mothers and newborns. If for no other reason than that, pregnant women should only eat savory foods like hot-smoked salmon in moderation.

Other nutritional controversies of pregnant salmon

Salmon also brings cholesterol and saturated fats to the pregnant woman’s diet: a portion of this fish supplies up to 17% of the maximum daily cholesterol for a healthy woman (maximum 300 mg/day) and up to 25% for a woman suffering from hypercholesterolemia ( max 200 mg/day).

Furthermore, the concentration of polyunsaturated fats, including (but not only) omega 3, is quantitatively identical to that of saturated fats (which tend to increase cholesterolemia): The saturated/polyunsaturated ratio is therefore adequate but certainly not “exceptionally favorable ”.

How much smoked salmon can I eat while pregnant?

According to the NHS website, pregnant women should limit their intake of fatty fish to one or two servings a week due to the possible risk of mercury buildup.

What to do after having cold smoked salmon when you are pregnant

It’s worth reiterating that the risk of a smoked salmon parasitic or listeria infection is low, so don’t panic!

Foodborne illnesses usually show symptoms one to three days after eating the contaminated food (source: FDA). If it’s been longer and you’re feeling fine, it’s likely that the smoked salmon hasn’t been contaminated. In rare circumstances, you may feel sick faster — within half an hour — or it may take up to six weeks for any kind of illness to develop.

Food poisoning can often be confused with other similar problems (such as morning sickness), but if you suffer from:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms
  • aches or an unusual headache

See your doctor right away or go to the emergency room after eating smoked salmon. Let him know what you ate and when – it’s always best to play it safe.


While smoked salmon is good for nutrition, it’s important to avoid cold-smoked varieties if you’re pregnant — these aren’t fully cooked through and carry serious health risks. On the other hand, hot smoked salmon is fully cooked and shouldn’t cause dangerous infections. However, if the hot smoked salmon has not been previously heated to 75 C, be sure to do so before eating to ensure safety. Canned smoked salmon is also safe. Therefore, during pregnancy it is better to eat only hot smoked or long-life smoked salmon and if you are in doubt, always try to be cautious: your health and that of your future child depends on it.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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