Consumption of liver and liver-based food during pregnancy

Recommendations and limits for intake of vitamin A
The recommended intake of vitamin A is 900 μg RE per day for men and 700 μg RE per day for women. During pregnancy, the recommended intake is slightly higher, i.e. 800 μg RE per day, since the need for vitamin A increases somewhat, particularly toward the end of the pregnancy. If the daily intake falls below 500 μg RE for men or below 400 μg RE for women, some deficiency symptoms may appear. On average, the intake of vitamin A from food is sufficient in Finland.

Due to the sensitivity of the foetus to excessive intake of vitamin A, the long-term intake of vitamin A in retinoid form should not exceed 3000 μg RE per day during pregnancy. Since even a single excessive dose may be harmful to the foetus, the amount of vitamin A in retinoid form obtained from one dose should not exceed 7500 μg RE.

Consumption of liver and liver-based foods
Liver is a versatile foodstuff that contains nutrients the need for which increases during pregnancy. Such nutrients include, for example, folate, vitamin A, and iron. However, due to risks involved in the consumption of liver during pregnancy, the consumption of liver-based foods should be restricted during the whole pregnancy. Liver is high in vitamin A in so-called retinoid form, which in large quantities may increase the risk of foetal malformation and miscarriage.

Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and the National Nutrition Council have issued the following recommendation regarding the consumption of liver and liver-based food during pregnancy 1

  • Liver-based foods (ground liver patties and liver steaks, liver stew, liver casserole) should be avoided during the whole pregnancy.
  • The maximum weekly consumption of liver sausage and liver pate should not exceed 200 g during pregnancy. The maximum consumption during one meal should not exceed 100 g.
  • If liver sausage or live pate is consumed on a daily basis, the maximum amount per day should not exceed 30 g. In practice this equals about 2 slices of liver sausage or 2 tablespoonfuls of liver pate.

1. This recommendation is based on the risk assessment report of Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira: "Intake of vitamin A, cadmium and lead via liver foods among Finnish women of fertile age - a quantative risk assessment, (pdf), (Evira's research project 2/2007)