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Playing it Safe: Soft Cheeses

Cream Cheese is OK, But Some Others are Not
-- By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

It's true that pregnant women shouldn't eat soft cheeses, but that doesn't mean that every soft dairy product is out of bounds for 40 weeks.
Your morning bagel with cream cheese is a safe choice (just be sure to choose a low-fat variety), as is your yogurt smoothie. If you're craving cottage cheese and tomatoes, dig in.

However, because of your pregnancy, you should probably avoid some other foods in your refrigerator. Pregnant women shouldn't eat soft cheeses that are unpasteurized, mold-ripened cheeses like Brie or Camembert, or blue-veined cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola (the blue veins are mold). Unpasteurized (also called raw) cheeses can carry a harmful bacteria called listeria.

Listeria is a type of bacteria found everywhere. Listeria can cause a food-borne illness called listeriosis, which is extremely dangerous for a pregnant women and her unborn baby. Listeriosis can cause premature delivery, miscarriage, and fetal death. A pregnant woman is more susceptible to Listeriosis because of the normal pregnancy changes that affect your immune system.

Listeria are unusual because they can grow at refrigeration temperatures of 40 degrees or below. Only cooking kills them.

Look for the term "pasteurized" on the label of any cheese you buy. Any cheese (including the soft cheeses mentioned in this article) that is pasteurized is safe to eat during pregnancy. If a label is not available, the cheese is made from unpasteurized milk, you are dining out, or you are traveling overseas, take these precautions.

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Member Comments About this Article
"I think this is ridiculous. The incidence of listeria is incredibly low. And soft cheeses are barely more likely to have it than any other food. Americans are hysterical about pregnant women!" -- ECUAJESS
"As noted in the article, pregnant women shouldn't eat soft cheeses that are unpasteurized, mold-ripened cheeses like Brie or Camembert. Chevre cheese comes in a wide range of forms, from soft farmer's cheeses to fully cured firm varieties so the type is important during pregnancy. When in doubt and unable to verify if it has been pasteurized, it is probably best to not have any." -- TONKA_14
"Noticed that ricotta was on the list of safe cheese. However, not all ricotta cheese is pasteurized. There was actually brand a while ago that was found to contain listeria. Read this on FDA website. You can request e-mail updates from FDA website on specific brands of food that have been found to potenially contain listeria, samonella and other contaminants." -- ROJOE4
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About The Author
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. She teaches prenatal classes and counsels individuals, helping women eat right and stay fit before, during and after their pregnancies.
Becky Hand


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