Banning Blue's and Fitting Feta when pregnant: Cheese and Pregnancy

So just what cheese is safe?

Cheese and Pregnancy: An introduction

Throughout the ages and with so many different research papers and opinion. If you believed them all, you would never eat whilst you were pregnant. Cheese is one of those foods which has so much question surrounding it. I'll try and describe why you shouldn't eat certain types and the problems associated with doing so this should then allow you as a pregnant woman to make an informed decision.

Blue Cheese whilst pregnant – What makes it unsafe?

The reason that you can't eat soft cheeses, sometimes referred to as mould ripened cheese and blue veined cheeses is because they can contain a bacteria called listeria, even if they are made with pasteurised milk you should avoid these because these kind of cheeses have the perfect environment for these bacteria to thrive, to a level where you could get listerosis.

Listeria monocytogenes

The bacteria responsible for listerosis
The bacteria responsible for listerosis

Listeria monocytogenes Transmission EM

Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive rod-shaped bacterium. It is the agent of listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.
Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive rod-shaped bacterium. It is the agent of listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.

Listeriosis

Listeriosis is an infection which is commonly caused by eating foods which are contaminated with the listeria bacteria. The symptoms in adults usually are mild and causes flu like symptoms or vomiting and diarrhoea. The listeria bacteria have been found in a range of chilled foods, including:

  • pre-packed sandwiches

  • pâté

  • butter

  • soft cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert or others with a similar rind

  • soft blue cheese

  • cooked sliced meats

  • smoked salmon

The high risk ones are Pate, Soft Cheese and Soft blue cheese.

The best way to prevent infection is to practice good food hygiene, makes sure that you don't eat foods beyond there use by date, always follow storage instructions, ensure your refrigerator is between 0-5oC using an external thermometer as the internal one is unlikely accurately calibrated, cook foods thoroughly.

The NHS and many other 'experts' suggest that if you are in the 'high risk' group, this is pregnant women then you should avoid eating the high risk foods

The Specifics of Listeriosis and Pregnancy

Due to the fact that pregnant women have lowered natural defences against listeria it means that they are more than 20 times more likely to develop listerosis when compared to those in lower risk groups.

The infection in pregnancy rarely causes any serious threat to a mothers health as it wouldn't in a low risk groups. However it often causes pregnancy and complications during birth and can sadly cause miscarriages. It has been estimated that 22% of listerosis cases during pregnancy result in the death of the baby.

This information is not to scare you but to educate you to the risks and why you shouldn't eat foods with a high risk of listeria during pregnancy.

Basics of Listeriosis

Cheeses to Avoid during Pregnancy

Based on this information here is a list of cheeses to avoid during pregnancy

  • Mould-ripened soft cheeses: brie, blue brie, cambozola, camembert, chaumes, chevre (goat's cheese with a white rind), pont l'eveque, taleggio, vacherin-fribourgeois.

  • Blue-veined cheeses: bergader, bleu d'auvergne, blue wensleydale, shropshire blue, danish blue, dolcelatte, gorgonzola, roncal, roquefort, stilton, tomme.

  • Soft, unpasteurised cheese, including goat's and sheep's cheeses: chabichou, pyramide, torta del cesar.

Feta cheese and pregnancy is Safe

Safe Cheeses whilst pregnant

On a much lighter note, cheese is a great source of calcium during pregnancy and so you shouldn't be put off eating it entirely, there are so many cheeses you can enjoy and some are listed below:

  • Hard cheeses: smoked versions, caerphilly, cheddar, cheshire, derby, double gloucester, edam, emmental, English goat's cheddar, feta, gouda, gruyere, halloumi, havarti, jarlsberg, lancashire, manchego, orkney, paneer, parmesan, pecorino (hard), provolone, red leicester.

  • Soft, processed cheeses: garlic and herb roulade, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, goat's cheese without a white rind, mascarpone, mozzarella, processed cheese (including cheese spread and cheese segments), quark, ricotta.

  • Yoghurts, probiotic drinks, fromage frais, soured cream and creme fraiche are all safe to eat. These include any variety, including natural, flavoured and live versions.

I hope that you feel a little more sure about what cheese is and isn't safe, if you have any questions or tips then please feel free to leave a comment. Also check out the links to the right as they contain some of the latest research into cheese and pregnancy and listeria and pregnancy it is not always light reading, but it gives substance to what you are reading.

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