Looking forward to eating clam chowder every second week of the month is one of the unique traditions we have as a family. We love seafood, and the refreshing taste of clams has made us excited every time we plan to make one for dinner.
But, when I got pregnant, I heard stories of how seafood must be avoided to prevent complications. Can pregnant women eat clam chowder? I wanted to know if it is safe for me before I indulge in them.
I have listed here some helpful information I found out about clam chowder and what it will do during pregnancy.
A clam is a type of shelled sea creature with its shells attached by a muscular hinge. It burrows its body into the sand using its foot and has a double-tubed siphon that draws water to extract oxygen in their body and filter food while also expelling water and waste from their digestive tracts.
Clams are harvested along the coasts of the Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic. These shells are cooked into varieties of dishes. What we eat is the siphon of the clams, the foot and the muscles that closes and opens its shell. Its meat is the color of creamy white and can be sweet and chewy when eaten.
Clam chowder is a cooked soup made of clams or fishes and mixed with milk, onion, tomatoes, salt pork, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables. It was originated in the Eastern part of the United States and is commonly served in many restaurants all over the country.
There are varieties of clam chowder, often depending on the region it is served. For instance, the Manhattan version of clam chowder is tomato-based and has red broth instead of milk. In New Jersey, they add paprika, bacon, light cream, asparagus, and parsley and celery powder.
In New England, milk or cream is the base in the chowder, and it is thicker than the traditional thin soup chowder. In Seattle, smoked salmon is added in place of smoked pork. For people in San Francisco, clam chowders are best served in a sourdough bread bowl.
Tips for Cooking Unshucked Clams to Make Them Pregnancy-Safe:
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cooked Clams Safely?
Clams are made safe in pregnancy by cooking them. Raw clams are risky to eat, whether you’re pregnant or not. This is because raw clams can harbor bacteria and pathogens like Vibrio vulnificus, which is a type of bacteria found in saltwater.
Vibrio vulnificus can be present in almost all seawater, even waters that have been ‘approved’ for harvesting shellfish like clams (source: CDC). Its presence is unrelated to pollution. Affected clams (and oysters) don’t look, taste or smell any different to ones without the bacteria.
Any raw seafood can also contain other pathogens, not just vibrio vulnificus (source: NHS). Pregnant women should avoid all raw shellfish for this reason.
Fortunately, most bacteria are killed by cooking, which is why clams are much safer when they’re cooked. What ‘cooked’ means varies depending on the method.
Here are some guidelines on what ‘fully cooked’ means, according to the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference:
|Clam Cooking Method||Time / Temperature|
|Boiled (including in soup or chowder)||At least 3 minutes|
|Fried||At least 3 minutes at 190c/375f|
|Broiled / Grilled||Three inches from the heat for 3 minutes|
|Baked (oven)||Ten minutes at 230c / 450f|
|Steamed (also called ‘Steamers’)||5-10 minutes when the water is already steaming, depending on the size of the clam (see tips below)|
If you’re not sure what temperatures your food is reaching, you might want to invest in a good culinary thermometer. They’re super useful when you’re pregnant (and beyond) – you can see my recommended ones here.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Clam Chowder?
Pregnant women may safely eat clams by cooking clam chowder while pregnant. Eating raw clams is never a good idea, especially if you wonder, “is clam chowder safe during pregnancy?”
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