Can You Eat Mayonnaise During Pregnancy?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

There are a lot of do’s and don’ts you’ll come across in the pregnancy books. Do drink extra water to keep yourself and your baby hydrated. Don’t smoke or drink alcoholic beverages. Do get plenty of rest. Don’t eat unpasteurized or certain raw foods, like raw eggs, soft cheeses, and uncooked fish.

Is it safe to eat mayo while pregnant?

The jars of mayonnaise you’ll find on the shelf at your local grocery store are actually safe to eat — at least the vast majority of them. That’s because commercially produced foods that contain eggs — mayonnaise, dressings, sauces, etc. — must be made using pasteurized eggs to be sold in the United States. It’s required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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The worry with raw eggs is bacteria. Pasteurization is a process that involves heating foods to a certain temperature to kill off potentially harmful bacteria. So, if the mayo you want says it’s pasteurized, you’re good to go.

Mayos to avoid during pregnancy

Thing is, you may be offered mayonnaise at a family BBQ and not know its origin if it’s not in the original packaging. In these cases, you may want to avoid it. At very least, it’s a good idea to ask if it was made using pasteurized eggs.

Homemade

Always ask what type of eggs were used in any homemade sauces or spreads you intend to eat.

Farm fresh eggs are delicious, and fine to eat when they’re properly cooked. But bacteria can infiltrate the egg even before its shell is formed if the chicken laying the egg is infected. The outside shell, too, can also become contaminated by chicken droppings. That’s why you don’t want to eat mayo made with unpasteurized eggs from your local farm.

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What about home pasteurization? While you may find a host of tutorials online, the USDA says it’s not possible to safely pasteurize foods at home. (At least, it’s not worth the risk of doing it incorrectly.)

Specialty stores

You may also find homemade mayo or special varieties at mom and pop foods shops, farmer’s markets, and specialty stores. You may even come across organic varieties made using non-pasteurized eggs. Read your labels carefully.

Restaurants

Restaurants may whip up their own spreads and sauces, like mayo, aioli, or hollandaise sauce. It’s completely OK to ask if these preparations were made using pasteurized eggs. Chances are, they were — but if the staff doesn’t know, consider taking it off your order or choosing something else.

In other foods

Mayonnaise is often a part of other foods, like potato salad, egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, etc. The advice here is the same — read those labels. It may not always be clearly marked, so consider asking or skipping unless you see the word pasteurized somewhere on the box.

Mayonnaise alternatives

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Although there’s no reason to avoid eggs altogether during pregnancy, if you’d prefer not to eat them there are a number of egg-free or vegan mayonnaise spreads on the market.

You can look for these products in stores:

  • Follow Your Heart Original Vegenaise
  • Best Foods Vegan Dressing & Spread
  • Thrive Market Vegan Mayonnaise
  • Sir Kensington’s Classic Vegan Mayo
  • Earth Balance Original Mindful Dressing & Sandwich Spread
  • Spectrum Vegan Eggless Light Canola Mayonnaise
  • Hellmann’s Vegan

Vegan advocacy group PETA says that a super easy mayonnaise substitute is ripe avocado. You can spread it on a sandwich alone or mash it and use it as the glue for your favorite salad sandwiches (chicken salad, chickpea salad, or whatever else you like).

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According to Jolinda Hackett at The Spruce Eats, you likely have all the ingredients on hand to make a simple, egg-free mayonnaise spread at home.

You’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil (any type)

Risks of eating unsafe mayo during pregnancy

Eating unpasteurized eggs and foods made with them puts you at risk of catching the foodborne illness (food poisoning) salmonellosis, which is caused by salmonella bacteria. Salmonella can be found in raw eggs among other foods, like raw meat and poultry, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized milk.

This infection tends to be more dangerous — sometimes life threatening — in pregnant people, as well as older adults, younger children, and those with weakened immune systems.

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Symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • fever, chills
  • headache
  • bloody stool

You may develop these symptoms anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days after eating contaminated foods. And the infection can last from 4 days to a full week or longer, depending on how severe symptoms become or if hospitalization (for complications like dehydration) is necessary.

Even if your mayo is the safe variety, you can also risk getting sick if it’s out for too long. Keep it refrigerated when not in use and finish up homemade mayonnaise within 4 days.

The bottom line

If you love mayo, you’re in luck. You don’t have to give it up during pregnancy.

There are many safe, pasteurized varieties on the shelves at your local grocery store. You may even find a few egg-free types to try or get crafty with avocado as a substitute.

When it comes to homemade mixes, just use caution and don’t hesitate to ask about the source of the eggs. And when you’re in doubt, simply go without to avoid potential food poisoning.

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