When you’re pregnant, everything you eat will affect the baby. So it’s important to be careful! Sure, it’s tempting to scarf everything down. But you should always avoid mold-ripened soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk.
Since these kinds of cheese have high water content, they can be contaminated with the harmful bacteria Listeria. They’re also less acidic than hard cheese, so it’s easy for bacteria to grow. Plus, if it’s made with unpasteurized milk, there isn’t an extra step to kill bacteria.1
Listeria causes an infection called listeriosis, a type of food poisoning. It’s also the third most common cause of death from a foodborne illness in the United States.2
Since pregnant women are 10 times more likely to catch Listeria, it pays to be cautious. The infection is linked to miscarriages, preterm labor, sickness, and even newborn death.
Protect yourself and your baby by knowing these 8 soft kinds of cheese to avoid during pregnancy.
1. Brie And Blue Brie
The flavor in brie and blue brie (cambozola) is from the edible white moldy rind. They are made with cow’s milk and are popular choices for cheese platters. Only the pasteurized kind is safe for pregnant women to eat.
Camembert is similar to brie but has a stronger flavor. It also has a lower fat content and is made with cow’s milk. However, pregnant women should only eat camembert when it’s made with pasteurized milk.
A soft cheese that is made with goat’s milk is called chèvre. The best flavors come from raw, unpasteurized versions. Unfortunately, that kind is also on the list of cheese to avoid when pregnant.
4. Danish Blue
Unpasteurized blue-veined cheeses like Danish blue cheese should also be on your radar.3 These cheeses are semi-soft, made with cow’s milk, and have blue-grey spots from the mold Penicillium. You might spot crumbles of Danish Blue in dressings, salads, and appetizers.
Like Danish Blue, gorgonzola is a popular blue cheese. It’s traditionally made with raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk, which should be avoided by pregnant women. Pasteurized versions made with cow’s or sheep’s milk are safe to eat.
Pregnant women should always skip Roquefort, a soft blue-veined cheese. It’s typically made with unpasteurized sheep’s milk and used in sauces, fillings, and quiches. If something has Roquefort, always double check that it’s made pasteurized sheep’s milk.
As a traditional English blue cheese, Stichelton is made with raw unpasteurized milk. So, you guessed it – pregnant women should not eat this cheese. Luckily, there’s a pasteurized version called Stilton that’s OK to eat. Pay close attention to the spelling to make sure you eat a safe one.
8. Queso Fresco And Queso Blanco
Raw cheese like Queso Fresco and Queso Blanco are staples in Mexican cuisine. But since they’re made with unpasteurized cow’s or sheep’s milk, they pose a risk for Listeria. It also explains why pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more likely to catch Listeria.4
Pasteurized Or Semi-Hard And Hard Cheeses Are Safe During Pregnancy
In a nutshell, pasteurized soft cheese are OK to eat. It’s the unpasteurized soft ones that you should watch out for.
As for semi-hard and hard cheese? They are all OK to eat – even if they are unpasteurized. They are extremely dry, so it’s difficult for bacteria to grow. The acidity level is also high, which bacteria hate! Examples of hard cheese include cheddar, Parmesan, gruyere, aged Gouda, and Edam.5
You can also eat Ricotta, cottage cheese, and cream cheese as long as it’s made from pasteurized milk. The same goes for other dairy products like yogurt and ice cream.6
Note: Needless to say, if you have lactose intolerance, it might be best to avoid any kind of dairy. Be sure to keep up with your calcium and vitamin D intake through fortified foods or lactose-free milk.
When in doubt, opt for the hard cheese. However, these days, most types of cheese are pasteurized to protect everyone from Listeria infection. But they do still exist, especially in traditional markets and restaurants. Play it safe and always check the label.
|↑1, ↑6||The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑2, ↑4||People at Risk – Pregnant Women and Newborns. Center for Disease Control.|
|↑3||Listeria And Pregnancy. NHS Choices.|
|↑5||Are hard cheeses safe to eat during pregnancy? NHS Choices.|