Eating well-balanced meals is vital during pregnancy. However, with so much conflicting advice out there, it can be confusing to know which foods are safe and which to avoid. One question many expecting mothers have is whether soft cheeses like brie are OK to eat or if they should be avoided.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about eating brie and other soft cheeses when pregnant. It provides researched, evidence-based information to help you make informed choices about including these cheeses in your diet while pregnant.
Key Takeaways on Eating Brie While Pregnant:
- Brie and other soft cheeses are typically not recommended during pregnancy due to the risk of foodborne illnesses like listeria. However, most experts agree hard, aged brie is likely safe.
- Pasteurized brie in the US has very little risk but there is still a small chance of contamination.
- The highest risks come from raw/unpasteurized brie and imported cheeses that may be made from unpasteurized milk. Avoid these varieties.
- Check labels closely and know where your cheese comes from. Opt for cheeses clearly labeled “pastuerized” from reputable brands.
- In moderation, pasteurized brie from the US, Canada or Europe is unlikely to cause harm, but check with your doctor.
- Take extra precautions for food safety like avoiding cheese from deli counters, refrigerating after opening, and heating just until steaming.
- Consider lower-risk alternatives like mozzarella, parmesan, swiss, cheddar, feta, and cream cheese.
Why Are Soft Cheeses a Concern During Pregnancy?
The main safety concern with many soft cheeses like brie is the potential risk of becoming infected with listeria, a harmful bacteria that can cause serious pregnancy complications.
Listeria is rare but around 20 times more likely to affect pregnant women than the general population due to suppressed immune systems. If contracted, it can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, and other problems.
Soft cheeses are more susceptible to contamination because:
- The high moisture content allows listeria bacteria to grow, unlike hard cheeses.
- The soft texture makes it harder to detect contamination visually.
- Many are made with unpasteurized milk which has not been heat treated to kill bacteria.
For these reasons, the CDC and many healthcare organizations caution against consuming soft cheeses like brie, feta, queso fresco, blue cheeses, goat cheese, and others unless they are clearly made from pasteurized milk.
Is All Brie Off Limits? Differences Between Types of Brie
Not necessarily! With brie, a lot depends on the type you are eating.
In general, soft unpasteurized brie is considered very high-risk and should be avoided during pregnancy. This includes imported options and brie made from raw milk. The bacteria can easily grow and multiply in the soft moist center.
However, pasteurized brie that has been properly heat treated before aging is considered lower risk. Pasteurization kills over 99% of harmful pathogens like listeria. While contamination is still possible in the aging and packaging process, the risk is substantially reduced.
Firm, aged brie that is fairly hard throughout has the lowest risk profile. Aged brie is usually safe because the long ripening process creates unfavorable conditions for bacteria growth. Harder aged brie has a lower moisture content and higher acidity.
Is Brie Sold in the US Pasteurized?
The good news is that nearly all brie sold in grocery stores in the US is pasteurized for safety. This includes popular brands like Président Brie, Brié D’ecosse, and Trader Joe’s Double Crème Brie.
In the US, cheesemakers are required by the FDA to use pasteurized milk for the production of soft cheeses. Pasteurization is considered a standard safety practice in commercial cheesemaking.
So brie purchased from mainstream grocers, wholesale clubs, and reputable cheese shops is very likely pasteurized unless explicitly labeled as “raw milk”. This makes US-produced brie a lower safety risk during pregnancy than brie purchased or produced in other countries.
Some small-batch artisanal producers may use raw milk but this will be clearly indicated on the label. Always check the ingredients for “pasteurized milk” or “raw milk” to identify the safest options.
Is Imported Brie Safe When Pregnant?
Pregnant women should use extra caution with imported brie and other soft cheeses. Food safety standards, protocols, and required testing vary greatly by country.
Imported cheese is more likely to be made from raw or unpasteurized milk that could contain dangerous bacteria. This is especially true for artisanal or farmstead cheeses that are less likely to be pasteurized.
Brie and other soft cheeses from countries like France, Spain, and Italy are more likely to be raw milk varieties that pose higher risks even when properly aged. If purchasing imported cheese, check labels closely for “pasteurized” and the country of origin.
When in doubt, it may be wisest to avoid imported soft cheeses and choose a pasteurized US-produced brand for added peace of mind.
How to Choose Safer Brie When Pregnant
To minimize risks from brie and other soft cheeses when pregnant, follow these guidelines:
- Check the label: Only purchase cheese clearly labeled “pasteurized” and avoid any marked “raw milk.”
- Look for US and Canadian brands: Opt for pasteurized brie made domestically from reputable companies like Président, Trader Joe’s, or dairy co-ops.
- Avoid cheese counters and deli slices: Steer clear of cheese sliced to order that may introduce cross-contamination.
- Don’t eat rind: The rind has the highest bacterial levels, so remove before eating.
- Heat it: Cooking brie until steaming kills any bacteria present. Add it hot to cooked dishes.
- Watch expiration dates: Consume fresh cheese like brie within 5 days of opening. Toss if moldy.
- Refrigerate: Keep brie refrigerated at 40°F or below at all times for safety.
Following these precautions when purchasing and handling brie will help reduce risks and make it a safer choice during pregnancy.
Is Pasteurized Brie Completely Safe When Pregnant?
While pasteurized brie is considered relatively low risk, no cheese can ever be guaranteed 100% bacteria-free.
Pasteurization eliminates over 99% of pathogens, but it cannot fully sterilize cheese. Contamination is still possible during aging, packaging, slicing, and general handling even with pasteurized dairy products.
For this reason, there is no cheese that is considered completely risk-free according to the FDA. But pasteurized cheeses – including brie – rarely cause problems if purchased from reputable sources and handled properly after pasteurization.
The overall chances of contracting listeria or other foodborne illnesses from pasteurized brie and cheeses are very small. But pregnant women are wise to take extra precautions given their increased vulnerability.
Using your best judgment based on pasteurization, age, texture, smell, and appearance can further minimize any residual risks with brie.
At What Stage of Pregnancy is Brie Most Dangerous?
The risks of consuming contaminated soft cheeses impacts some stages of pregnancy more than others. Here is how the danger varies:
- First trimester: The highest risk of miscarriage from listeria infection. Avoid all unpasteurized soft cheeses.
- Second trimester: Still poses high risks of preterm labor, birth defects, and stillbirth. Continue avoiding unpasteurized soft cheeses.
- Third trimester: Lower risk than early pregnancy but listeria can cause pregnancy complications, sepsis, and infant infections. Use pasteurized cheeses only.
- After pregnancy: Minimal risks, but reheating leftover soft cheeses is still advised as good general practice.
The first and second trimesters of pregnancy are the most vulnerable times for complications from listeria. But avoiding raw milk soft cheeses throughout pregnancy is the safest approach.
What Are Some Healthier Brie Alternatives During Pregnancy?
If you want to exercise extra caution, many healthier cheese options with lower moisture content and less risk of contamination can provide a substitute for brie:
- Monterey Jack
- American cheese
- Cream cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Ricotta cheese
Hard and firm cheeses along with heavily processed options are considered safer as they provide less favorable conditions for harmful bacteria to grow if present at all.
Guidelines for Reheating Brie While Pregnant
Properly reheating brie and other soft cheeses until steaming hot helps kill any listeria or other pathogens that may be present. Here are some reheating guidelines:
- Bring to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming and bubbling.
- Ideally reheat for at least 15 seconds to ensure bacteria are destroyed.
- Stir frequently during reheating and don’t let heat concentrate in one spot.
- Don’t just melt the surface. Heat evenly throughout.
- Use it immediately after heating or refrigerate leftovers.
- Don’t eat brie cold after reheating. Follow the “heat it, eat it, repeat it” rule.
With proper reheating, cooked brie in hot meals, dips, and sauces can be a safer way to enjoy it without avoiding this flavorful cheese entirely.
When Can I Safely Eat Brie After Giving Birth?
After giving birth, the risks associated with consuming soft cheeses like brie decrease significantly. At this point, you may indulge in brie more freely.
That said, it is still smart practice to take the same basic food safety precautions after pregnancy as well:
- Opt for pasteurized cheese whenever possible.
- Avoid raw milk varieties unless cooked first.
- Heat brie and any leftover dishes containing it until steaming before consuming.
- Don’t eat brie that is discolored, dried out, or moldy in spots.
- Refrigerate promptly after purchasing and discard after use-by dates.
Following these safe handling tips for all soft cheeses reduces the small risks to new moms and their infants. Taking these simple precautions allows enjoyment of stronger flavored cheeses like brie after birth.
Common Questions About Eating Brie When Pregnant
Can I eat brie if I’m pregnant?
It’s best to avoid soft raw milk cheeses including imported brie. But pasteurized brie from the US or Canada is a low risk choice during pregnancy as long as proper handling and cooking procedures are followed.
Is Trader Joe’s brie pasteurized?
Yes, Trader Joe’s Double and Triple Crème Brie Cheeses are made with pasteurized milk making them pregnancy-safe according to food safety guidance.
Is Président brie pasteurized?
Président Brie sold in the US is pasteurized for added safety. Pregnant women can enjoy it in moderation when properly cooked just until steaming.
Can I eat Laughing Cow brie wedges when expecting?
The mini Babybel and Laughing Cow brie wedges are considered safe during pregnancy as they are made with pasteurized milk and packaged to avoid contamination.
What temperature should brie be when pregnant?
Brie should be kept refrigerated at 40°F or below for safety. When cooking brie, heat to an internal temperature of 165°F until steaming to kill any potential bacteria.
The Bottom Line on Eating Brie During Pregnancy
While completely avoiding brie and other soft cheeses is the most cautious option, the risks from pasteurized varieties are very low if food safety guidelines are followed. US-produced pasteurized brie sold refrigerated and heated until steaming before eating is unlikely to cause harm. But always check with your doctor about your individual risks factors and preferences.
By understanding the different types and safety measures for handling brie, pregnant women can make informed choices to balance their diet while remaining vigilant against potential risks from unpasteurized varieties.