Are you a fan of blue cheese? Do you find yourself craving it during your pregnancy but wondering if it’s safe to eat?
The answer is not a simple yes or no. Blue cheese is a soft cheese that is often made with unpasteurized milk, putting it at high risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria. However, some blue cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, which makes them safe to eat during pregnancy.
In this article, we will explore the topic of blue cheese and pasteurization in the US, and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your diet during pregnancy.
So, let’s dive in!
Is Blue Cheese Pasteurized In The Us?
In the US, nearly all fresh, rindless cheese like mozzarella, fresh goat cheese, ricotta, or feta are pasteurized. This means that 99 percent of soft, creamy, spreadable cheeses are also pasteurized. Longer-aged cheeses like cheddar, Manchego, and blue cheeses may or may not be pasteurized.
Blue cheese is a soft cheese that is ripened with the mold Penicillium roqueforti. It is more often made with unpasteurized milk, putting it at high risk of being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and causing the infection Listeriosis. Listeriosis can be a dangerous infection in pregnant women and can lead to fetal or infant death.
Therefore, blue cheese and all products that contain it as an ingredient should be avoided during pregnancy. However, some blue cheeses are made with pasteurized milk. The process of pasteurization kills L. monocytogenes. Likewise, thorough cooking can render blue cheese safe to eat.
Hence, blue cheese made from pasteurized milk, as well as cooked dishes with blue cheese, can be safely consumed during pregnancy. It is good advice for pregnant women to be cautious about eating different types of cheese. In the same way, checking product labels before purchasing is a good practice during pregnancy.
What Is Blue Cheese?
Blue cheese is a type of cheese that is characterized by its blue or green veins that run through its creamy white interior. This unique appearance is due to the mold Penicillium roqueforti, which is used in the cheese-making process. Blue cheese can be made from cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk and is often aged for several months to develop its distinct flavor profile.
The process of making blue cheese typically involves adding the mold spores to the milk during the cheese-making process. The cheese is then allowed to age for several months in a controlled environment, where the mold continues to grow and develop. As the cheese ages, it becomes softer and creamier, with a more pronounced flavor.
Blue cheese is commonly used in salads, dressings, and dips, and can also be enjoyed on its own as a snack or appetizer. However, due to its high risk of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, pregnant women should be cautious about consuming blue cheese made from unpasteurized milk. It is always recommended to check product labels and consult with a healthcare provider before consuming any type of cheese during pregnancy.
The Risks Of Eating Unpasteurized Blue Cheese During Pregnancy
Unpasteurized blue cheese poses a significant risk to pregnant women due to the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. This type of bacteria can cause Listeriosis, a severe infection that can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious illness in a newborn. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting Listeriosis than the general population because their immune system is weakened during pregnancy.
Unpasteurized blue cheese is more likely to contain L. monocytogenes than pasteurized blue cheese. This is because the pasteurization process kills harmful bacteria like L. monocytogenes. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid consuming unpasteurized blue cheese or any products that contain it as an ingredient.
It’s important to note that the risks associated with unpasteurized blue cheese depend on whether it’s a soft or hard cheese. Hard blue cheese made from pasteurized milk has a lower chance of harboring L. monocytogenes and is considered safe for pregnant women to consume. However, soft blue cheese, even if made from pasteurized milk, is still at a high risk of contamination and should be avoided during pregnancy.
What Is Pasteurization?
Pasteurization is a process of heating raw milk to a high enough temperature to kill potentially harmful bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes. This process is used to make dairy products safer for consumption and to extend their shelf life. Pasteurization is considered more efficient on a large scale, as there is less care necessary in the milk collection stage where bacteria from the cows runs rampant. However, pasteurization also kills off the good bacteria that gives some raw milk cheeses their unique, complex flavors. In the cheesemaking process, there are a couple of heat treatments available to accomplish pasteurization while still maintaining flavor. In general, fromagers and turophiles alike just want to enjoy quality cheese, regardless of it being pasteurized or unpasteurized. In the US, all cheese regulated by the FDA must either be made from pasteurized milk or aged at least 60 days. Longer-aged cheeses may or may not be pasteurized, depending on the manufacturer’s production practices.
Pasteurized Vs. Unpasteurized Blue Cheese: What’s The Difference?
The difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized blue cheese lies in the process of making the cheese. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to kill potentially harmful bacteria. Blue cheese made with pasteurized milk is considered safer to consume, especially for pregnant women, as it reduces the risk of Listeriosis.
On the other hand, unpasteurized blue cheese is made with raw milk, which contains natural bacteria that contribute to the unique flavor and texture of the cheese. However, this also means that unpasteurized blue cheese is at a higher risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes.
It is important to note that not all blue cheeses are made with raw milk. Some blue cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, which makes them a safer option for pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems. It is always recommended to check product labels before purchasing and consuming any type of cheese.
Blue Cheese Brands That Use Pasteurized Milk In The US
While most blue cheese is made with unpasteurized milk, there are some brands in the US that use pasteurized milk in their blue cheese production. These brands include Kraft’s hard blue cheeses and crumbles, Salemville’s Amish Blue, and Point Reyes Bay Blue. Huntsman, a Stilton layered with Double Gloucester, is also made with pasteurized milk.
Rogue Creamery, an artisan cheese producer located in Southern Oregon, uses certified organic pasteurized milk to make their award-winning blue cheeses. They are committed to sustainable agriculture practices and food safety, which are third-party certified.
River Whey Creamery in Texas also produces a raw milk blue cheese called Whey Blue, but it is made with double cream and aged for 60 to 90 days. This cheese has aromas of toasted biscuits and subtle mottling of blue. River Whey Creamery is dedicated to sustainability and transparency in their farming and cheese-making practices.
It’s important to note that while these blue cheese brands use pasteurized milk, they may still carry a risk of contamination if not handled properly. Pregnant women should always exercise caution when consuming any type of cheese and read product labels carefully before purchasing.
Other Types Of Cheese To Avoid During Pregnancy
While most cheese made from pasteurized milk is safe for pregnant women to consume, there are still some types of cheese that should be avoided. Unpasteurized soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and blue cheeses, as well as Mexican-style cheeses like queso blanco and queso fresco, can contain Listeria monocytogenes and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Additionally, aged cheeses like Gorgonzola and Roquefort may or may not be made with pasteurized milk, so it’s important to check the label before consuming them. Cheese spreads and dips that contain these types of cheese should also be avoided.
It’s important to note that the risk of Listeria contamination is not limited to cheese. Pregnant women should also avoid deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, and refrigerated pâté or meat spreads unless they are heated until steaming hot. Raw or undercooked meat and poultry should also be avoided.