Is it safe to eat vodka sauce when pregnant? (risks)
In this article, we will discuss whether it is safe to eat vodka sauce when pregnant, what are the risks of eating vodka sauce when pregnant, and how much alcohol is in vodka sauce.
Many food restrictions are present during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as the food ingested by the mother can affect the unborn and the newborn. Alcoholic beverages are one example.
Is it safe to eat vodka sauce when pregnant?
No, it is not safe to eat vodka sauce when pregnant, unless the vodka sauce has been cooked for several hours and, if only a small amount of vodka sauce is ingested (1, 5).
Vodka sauce is prepared by adding vodka to the tomato sauce, which makes it unsafe when pregnant, as the ingestion of alcohol during pregnancy can harm the unborn child (4).
What are the risks of eating vodka sauce when pregnant?
The risk of eating vodka sauce when pregnant is the possibility of causing negative effects on the developing baby. The ingestion of alcoholic beverages is not recommended in any amount and for any gestational period (4).
The possible effects of ingesting alcohol when pregnant are summarised in the table below:
|Frequency of weekly drinking (g of alcohol/ week)||Negative effects on the baby|
Heavy drinking (above 80 g/ week)
Damage to different parts of the brain, including frontal cortex, cerebellum and hippocampus
Neuronal loss, resulting in impairment of movement and balance
Deficiency in memory and learning
Moderate drinking (about 80 g/ week)
Deficit in development
low to moderate drinking (about 20 g/ week)
Does the vodka evaporate when cooking?
Yes, the vodka evaporates when cooking, but to a limited amount. When food is cooked with an alcoholic beverage, part of the alcohol is lost by volatilisation through the action of heat, while part remains in the food (1, 2, 5).
The percentage of alcohol that is lost during cooking depends on many factors, including the temperature of the food at the time the beverage is mixed with the other ingredients, the food composition and the cooking method.
Other factors are the type of alcoholic beverage added and the cooking temperature and time. It is expected that the longer the food is cooked and the higher the temperature, the more alcohol is removed from the food.
How much alcohol is in the vodka sauce?
The volume of alcohol in the vodka sauce depends on the volume of vodka added and the cooking time of the vodka sauce. A sauce is cooked for about 15 minutes.
According to studies, if a food containing alcohol is cooked for 15 minutes, about 45 % of the initial volume of alcohol remains (1, 2, 3).
To make vodka sauce, about half a cup to 3/4 cup of vodka is added to a 4-serving sauce. This means a volume of 120 to 180 mL of vodka. After 15 minutes of cooking, there are still 54 to 80 mL of vodka left in the food.
Thus, vodka sauce contains a relatively high amount of vodka, consequently a relatively high amount of alcohol and should not be consumed when pregnant.
How long to cook vodka sauce to remove alcohol?
To remove the alcohol from the vodka sauce, you will need to cook the vodka sauce for at least 2.5 hours. After cooking a food containing alcohol for 2.5 hours, about 5 % of the initial alcohol is left.
The time needed to remove the alcohol from vodka sauce can vary but will certainly exceed many hours, as demonstrated by scientific experiments. Even after 2 hours of simmering food, about 10 % of the added alcohol remains (2, 3).
If the initial volume of vodka is 120 to 180 mL, the final volume of vodka after 2.5 hours of cooking will be 6 to 9 mL of vodka in a recipe. This volume will be further divided into 4 portions, resulting in 1 to 2.25 mL of vodka per portion.
Vodka has in general 45 % of alcohol in its composition (5). However, even this minimum volume of alcohol should be avoided when pregnant (4).
In this article, we discussed whether it is safe to eat vodka sauce when pregnant, what are the risks of eating vodka sauce when pregnant and how long you need to cook vodka sauce to remove the alcohol.
Alcohol is added to food to improve its flavour, however, it should not be consumed when pregnant. My suggestion is to substitute vodka for a flavour enhancer, such as mushrooms, which give an umami taste to foods.
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