Is it safe to eat cheese during pregnancy?

Sasha Watkins is a Dietitian and has written this information on the Baby Centre Web Site, a Link to this page can be found at the bottom of this page.

Cheese is great source of calcium, and many varieties are safe to eat in pregnancy. However, some cheeses aren’t safe to eat, because they are more likely to grow bacteria such as listeria, which may harm your unborn baby. Soft, mould-ripened cheeses, such as brie, camembert and chevre (a type of goat’s cheese) are not safe to eat in pregnancy. Soft, blue-veined cheeses, such as danish blue and roquefort, are also not considered safe to eat in pregnancy. Hard, blue-veined cheeses, such as stilton, are less likely to contain listeria than soft, mould-ripened cheeses. In fact, the NHS says that stilton is safe to eat when you’re pregnant. However, though the risk of listeria contamination in hard, blue-veined cheeses is very low, it can’t be ruled out. You may find it easier, and more reassuring, not to eat any blue cheeses, unless they’re cooked.

Even if soft, mould-ripened and blue-veined cheeses are made from pasteurised milk, they still aren’t considered safe to eat. That’s because they are more moist and less acidic than other cheeses, which provides the perfect environment for listeria bacteria to grow. If you become infected with listeria, you can get an illness called listeriosis. This causes flu-like symptoms several weeks after you’ve been exposed to the bacteria, though you may not have any symptoms at all. Even though listeriosis is usually a fairly mild illness for a mum-to-be, it can cause serious health problems for an unborn baby. It can even lead to miscarriage, or in about one in five cases, the loss of a baby at birth.

Be reassured that listerosis is rare. In 2011, there were an estimated 147 cases of listeriosis in England and Wales, 27 of which were in pregnant women. If you are pregnant, you have a higher risk of developing listeriosis. This is because your body’s natural defences against the listeria bacteria are weaker during pregnancy. But this risk is still low.

You can still eat soft, mould-ripened or blue-veined cheeses if you cook them thoroughly, such as oven-baked camembert, as this will kill any bacteria. Just make sure you’ve cooked the cheese until it’s piping hot throughout, and not just melted.

All hard cheeses, even if they are made with unpasteurised milk, are generally considered safe to eat. This includes parmesan. There is only a very small amount of listeria bacteria in hard cheeses, so they are not considered a risk during pregnancy.

Here’s a guide to which cheeses are safe and which are unsafe during pregnancy:

Safe cheeses in pregnancy

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 and red leicester.

Soft, processed cheeses, if made with pasteurised milk:
garlic and herb roulade, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, goat’s cheese without rind, mascarpone, mozzarella, processed cheese such as cheese spread and cheese segments, quark and ricotta.

Unsafe cheeses in pregnancy

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

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

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

Sasha Watkins – Dietitian – Is it Safe to Eat Cheese During Pregnancy

Sasha Watkins. (2017). Is it safe to eat cheese during pregnancy?.Available: Last accessed 30/05/2017.


Are Hard Cheeses safe to eat during Pregnancy?

Yes, hard cheeses are safe to eat during pregnancy. Although it’s possible for hard cheeses to contain listeria bacteria, they’re in such low numbers (less than one bacterium per gram of cheese) that they’re not considered to be a health risk to you or your unborn baby.

The NHS Choices web site has some more useful information.