Mayonnaise appears in so many dishes and salads, it’s understandable that pregnant women want to know if it’s safe to eat. I’ve put together this guide (including popular brands) so you can safely eat mayo in pregnancy.
Can You Eat Mayonnaise When You’re Pregnant? Mayonnaise that contains raw, unpasteurized eggs (such as homemade) is not safe for pregnant women to eat. However, almost all store-bought and commercial mayonnaises are pasteurized, making it safe for pregnant women.
Rather than have to examine every label in the supermarket, I’ve listed some of the most common brands and checked if they’re definitely pasteurized. There’s also some advice on when mayonnaise needs to be avoided, in dishes where it might be made with raw egg.
Is Store-Bought Mayonnaise Always Pasteurized?
Commercially manufactured mayonnaise is always pasteurized in the USA and in the UK. The FDA have confirmed on their website that all store-bought mayonnaise is pasteurized. This means any popular brand you’re likely to come across in grocery stores, supermarkets and so on.
Here are some of the common brands of mayo that you may have wondered about:
Hellman’s Mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs and is therefore safe for pregnant women to eat. This is confirmed on their ingredients list, and also on their official company website’s Frequently Asked Questions page. Hellmans’ entire mayonnaise range is safe in pregnancy, including the Real Mayonnaise, the Extra Creamy, the Olive Oil mayo and all their Light mayonnaise versions.
Best Foods mayonnaise is actually the same as Hellman’s as they’re the same parent company and the mayo is made in the same plant. Hellman’s is more likely to be called Best Foods if you’re West of the Rocky Mountains. There’s a rumor that Best Foods uses slightly more lemon juice, but otherwise, the recipe is the same. This means Best Foods mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs and is safe in pregnancy.
Kraft Mayonnaise is pasteurized and is therefore safe in pregnancy. This includes all their range, including the ‘Real Mayo’ and others.
Heinz Mayonnaise is safe to eat when pregnant because it’s owned and made by Kraft, so is made with the same processed that pasteurize the egg.
Kewpie Mayonnaise, in case you haven’t heard of it, has a cult following (I’m a fan, too). It’s made in Japan but you can buy it almost everywhere. Kewpie mayonnaise is made with pasteurized egg yolks and is safe for pregnant women to consume. Unlike other mayonnaise brands that use egg yolks and whites, Kewpie uses just yolk, so it gives it a richer taste that some people prefer.
Commercial Restaurants use pasteurized mayonnaise, too. By commercial, I mean chain restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and all other fast-food chains, plus smaller chain eateries like Nando’s, Panera Bread and so on. Always ask if the mayonnaise is pasteurized, but it almost always is at these types of restaurants as the mayo isn’t made in-house, but in a central factory or production plant instead.
Bear in mind that independent restaurants, those that are fine dining, home cooking or similar may make their own mayonnaise, which may not be safe to eat in pregnancy. Always ask first as each establishment differs.
What Kind of Mayonnaise is Unsafe for Pregnant Women To Eat?
Mayonnaise is only unsafe in pregnancy if it’s made with raw eggs, due to the risk of salmonella. Therefore, homemade mayonnaise is unsafe for pregnant women because it’s usually made with raw eggs or egg yolks.
Mayonnaise is essentially an emulsion of oil and egg, with an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, and seasonings. This is the traditional way of making mayonnaise, so it’s still commonly found today and used a lot by home cooks, despite the many commercial brands around.
If you normally make your own mayonnaise, you should switch to a commercially produced substitute throughout your pregnancy. If you’re eating mayo and you’re not sure how it was made, then ask first if it was made with raw eggs. If it does contain raw egg, it’s not safe in pregnancy. Liquid eggs and egg yolks that you buy in a store are usually pasteurized, if you still want to cook with liquid eggs (e.g. for batter).
Many restaurants make mayonnaise in-house with raw egg. This is particularly common in French or European restaurants, or eateries where the food is in that style, and where the chef(s) make it on the premises. If you’re pregnant and eating out, ensure that you let the restaurant know and then you should be able to find out which ingredients, if any, are made with raw egg and need to be avoided or substituted for something else.
Is Flavored (e.g. Garlic) Mayonnaise Safe For Pregnant Women?
The only potential safety issue with mayonnaise is if the base is made with raw egg, in which case it should be avoided. The usual types of flavored mayonnaise, for example garlic mayonnaise (also called Aioli or aïoli), mustard mayonnaise, chili mayonnaise, truffle mayonnaise and so on are all fine to eat in pregnancy if the mayonnaise base is pasteurized. Be aware that, again, restaurants sometimes make this type of mayonnaise from scratch so you’ll need to check with them if it contains raw eggs.
Is Eggless Mayonnaise Safe in Pregnancy?
Most types of eggless mayonnaise brands are safe for pregnant women to eat. Any mayo marketed as vegan mayonnaise will not be made with eggs and is usually safe for pregnant women. The ingredients in eggless mayonnaise vary, but they’re commonly oil, spices, and milk or milk powder if it’s eggless but not vegan.
As recipes vary somewhat, check the ingredients and read the label (or ask how it’s made) if you want to eat eggless mayonnaise.
Are Salads Containing Mayonnaise (e.g. Tuna) Safe in Pregnancy?
Mayonnaise-based salads are commonly made with commercial, pasteurized mayonnaise, making them safe whilst pregnant. Any store-bought or commercially-bought salad that is already made up (such as a carton of tuna salad in a supermarket) will very likely be made with pasteurized mayonnaise. Double-check if you’re at an independent shop or deli as they may make it with their own recipe, so check for the presence of raw egg.
Bear in mind that some salads made with raw fruit and veg, then blended with mayo, may not be safe to eat when pregnant. The reason isn’t the mayonnaise, it’s the chopped fruit and veg, since these can carry listeria or toxoplasmosis if the veg or fruit was improperly washed before being chopped into the salad.
Coleslaw and potato salad should be avoided, as they’re a classic example of where this may be an issue. You can read more about this here. To be extra cautious, make any salads yourself and use commercial mayonnaise.
Help! I’m Pregnant and I Ate Mayonnaise Made With Raw Egg
First, the key is not to panic as the statistics are still very low that you will contract salmonella poisoning. Only about 1 in 20,000 eggs will have salmonella (source: Forbes), and the vast majority of people who eat raw egg never get sick. However, since salmonella can be a serious illness in pregnancy, you should monitor your symptoms and inform a medical professional immediately if you think you might have salmonella poisoning.
Symptoms of salmonella can begin as soon as 12 hours or as late as 72 hours after eating contaminated food and include:
- Muscle aches
- Stomach cramps
- Change in temperature (fever or chills)
If you experience any of these symptoms after eating raw egg, even if you think they’re just “normal” morning sickness or similar, contact a health professional straight away and tell them what you ate, and when. It’s rare for salmonella to cross the placenta and affect your baby, but other complications like dehydration can affect you in pregnancy and need to be dealt with straight away. If you’ve eaten raw egg mayonnaise, the best thing for you and your baby is to maintain calm and monitor your symptoms carefully.
Nutritional Considerations of Mayonnaise in Pregnancy
Although mayonnaise is a tasty condiment and can liven up veggies and salads that you’ll be eating in pregnancy, it should be used sparingly as it’s very high in fat and often high in salt/sodium.
Any benefit you’ll gain from the trace amounts of vitamins or micro-nutrients it contains (such as vitamin A) are outweighed by its fat content. If you’re going to eat mayo when you’re pregnant, try to minimize the amount or make smaller servings go further.