Which cheeses are safe to eat when you're pregnant, and which aren't?
Cheese is an important source of protein and calcium for pregnant women but certain kinds do need to be avoided. Pregnant women are advised not to eat soft, mould-ripened cheeses, such as brie or camembert, and blue-veined cheeses, such as danish blue and stilton. This is because these cheeses are more inclined to allow growth of bacteria, such as listeria, which can harm your unborn child.
However, thorough cooking should kill any listeria, so it should be safe to eat food containing soft mould-ripened or blue-veined cheeses, provided the food has been properly cooked and is piping hot all the way through.
Listeria infection in pregnant women is very rare in the UK, only affecting one in 20,000 pregnancies. Provided you avoid foods with a high risk, you are very unlikely to be affected.
Unpasteurised cheeses imported from abroad or made by small producers are also safe to eat in pregnancy provided they are made from cow's milk and are not mould-ripened or blue-veined. The Food Standards Agency states that listeria is present in these cheeses in very low numbers and they are therefore not considered a risk during pregnancy. On the other hand, unpasteurised milk (from any animal) is not considered safe. In the USA, pregnant women are advised to avoid feta cheese because of the risk of listeria, but the feta cheese sold in the UK is considered safe to eat during pregnancy.
Cheeses which are SAFE to eat in pregnancy
austrian smoked, Babybel, caerphilly, cheddar, cheshire, derby, double gloucester, edam, emmental, english goat's cheddar, feta (if bought in the UK), gouda, gruyere, halloumi, havarti, jarlsberg, lancashire, mozzarella, orkney, paneer, parmesan, pecorino (hard), provolone, red leicester.
Soft and processed cheeses:
Boursin, cottage cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese, mascarpone, philadelphia, quark, ricotta.
Yoghurts, fromage frais, soured cream and creme fraiche -- any variety, including natural, flavoured and biologically active -- are all safe to eat.
Cheeses to AVOID in pregnancy
Mould-ripened soft cheeses:
brie, blue brie, cambozola, camembert, chaumes, pont L'eveque, prince jean, tallegio. vacherin-fribourgeois, weichkaese.
bavarian blue, bergader, bleu d'Auvergne, blue shropshire, cabrales, Danish blue, dolcelatte, doppelrhamstuge, eldel pilz, gorgonzola, manchego, romano, roncal, roquefort, stilton, tommes, wensleydale (blue).
Soft unpasteurised goat and sheep's cheeses:
chabichou, pyramide, torta del cesar.
Source: Anna McGrail, MA, BA, www.babycentre.co.uk