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Eating cheese during pregnancy

23 April 2010 — Features

Pregnancy and Cheese

We’d like to clear up a question we get asked regularly: which cheeses can or can’t I eat during pregnancy?

Whether a pregnant woman can or can’t eat cheese during pregnancy is a difficult subject and also has a wide range of answers depending on whether you’re from the Food Standards Agency or a dairy farmer or indeed an unpasteurised cheese maker but this is what we think is the most balanced viewpoint and we’ve also included some links to help you get more information.

We seem to be forever being told what we can and can’t eat and pregnant women seem to have a long list of can and cannots but while cheese is an important source of protein and calcium for pregnant women, certain kinds do definitely need to be avoided.

The prime reason to be careful is because of the risk, as small as it is, posed by Listeria, a bacteria that is present in the soil that accommodates the grass that the cows, sheep and goats eat and break down to produce the lovely milk that goes into cheese-making.

The bacteria are in most cases destroyed by heating, cooking or pasteurisation but can survive in certain ripened soft cheeses which are less acidic and contain more moisture than hard cheeses. If they do survive and are consumed by a pregnant woman they have the ability to infect the foetus.

Please remember however, Listeria infection in pregnant women is extremely rare in the UK, only affecting about one in 25,000 pregnancies but to be sure and to avoid the risk of listeriosis pregnant women are advised to avoid eating ripened soft cheeses and blue-veined cheeses, whether pasteurised or unpasteurised.

If you are pregnant and a cheese lover, it’s not all bad news: you can enjoy as much hard cheese as you like and cottage cheese, processed cheese and cheese spreads can all be safely eaten during pregnancy. Why not have a look through our Hard Cheese section to stock up now.

The other good news is of course that in a few months you will be able to gorge yourself on anything you like and to this end we have created a special box with all the things you will have missed: The New Mum’s Box of Indulgence

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