Congratulations! Now you are pregnant, you need to be careful about what you eat. You may be unsure which cheeses are not advisable to eat during pregnancy. This leaflet aims to reassure you that you do not need to give up cheese entirely……..

Cheese is an important source of protein and calcium for pregnant women but certain kinds of cheese do need to be avoided.

Pregnant women are advised not to eat soft, mould-ripened cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert, and many blue-veined cheeses. 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.

In healthy adults, infection with listeria can cause a short-lived flu-like illness. Pregnant women, however, can be hit harder by listeria, for the same reason you are more susceptible to everything during pregnancy: your immune system isn't working as well. Symptoms usually develop several weeks after exposure to the bacteria, which can make it hard to pinpoint exactly which food made you sick.

Symptoms may include fever, chills, muscle aches and back pain. Antibiotics will treat the infection. Newborns can also be tested and treated.

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 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 (raw) milk to drink (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:

  • pasteurised or unpasteurised hard cheeses, such as cheddar, gruyere and parmesan
  • pasteurised semi-hard cheeses, such as edam and stilton
  • pasteurised soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, paneer, ricotta, halloumi, goats' cheese without a white coating on the outside (rind) and processed cheese spreads
  • soft or blue cheese (pasteurised or unpasteurised) that has been cooked until steaming hot
  • pasteurised milk, yoghurt, cream and ice cream

Cheeses to AVOID in pregnancy:

  • any other foods made from unpasteurised milk, such as soft ripened goats' cheese
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, such as brie, camembert and chèvre (unless cooked until steaming hot)
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised soft blue cheeses, such as danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort (unless cooked until steaming hot)
  • unpasteurised cows' milk, goats' milk, sheep's milk or cream