Blue cheese is one of those contradictory foodstuffs that can be both safe and unsafe for pregnant women, depending on what form it takes. It’s all pretty confusing, so I’ve investigated blue cheese in detail for this article.
Can Pregnant women eat blue cheese? Pregnant women should avoid soft blue cheeses, even if they’re pasteurized. Hard blue cheeses are safe in pregnancy if they’re made with pasteurized milk. Food made with blue cheese (like dressing) can vary.
As blue cheese is such a confusing area for pregnant women, in this article I cover all the different ways you can (or can’t eat blue cheese) in pregnancy and what to look out for. This article only deals with blue cheese, but if you want to learn more about eating all varieties of cheese, I wrote a huge list of cheese types that are safe in pregnancy.
Which Blue Cheeses Are Made From Pasteurized Milk?
It may surprise you to learn that many blue cheeses are made from raw (unpasteurized) milk. Usually, they are aged for so long that only the intended ‘blue’ mold and bacteria survive in them, rather than anything harmful.
However, soft blue cheeses are far more likely to contain listeria than hard cheeses due to their higher water content and lower acidity, no matter how long they are aged (source: NHS).
Subsequently pregnant women need to check both pasteurization AND the texture of a blue cheese in order to determine whether or not it’s safe to eat.
Pasteurized blue cheeses include Stilton, many commercially-produced blue (or bleu) cheese crumbles, and many types of hard, crumbly cheese like Danish Blue.
Blue cheeses made from raw (unpasteurized) milk include Roquefort and some versions of Gorgonzola. However, whether they’re safe or not in pregnancy depends on various factors discussed below.
Which Blue Cheese is Safe in Pregnancy?
Unlike many other foods, the safety of blue cheese in pregnancy doesn’t solely depend on whether it’s pasteurized or not. It also depends on whether it is soft (containing more water) or a hard cheese. Hard blue cheese is safe for pregnant women to consume if it’s made from pasteurized milk, as it has a much lower chance of harboring any listeria.
Advice varies in different countries:
The American Pregnancy Association quote the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA in saying that pregnant women can eat soft blue cheeses, if they’re made from pasteurized milk.
However, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom says that pregnant women should avoid any soft, blue-veined cheese, pasteurized or not. They mention that the only way to make soft blue cheese safe is to cook it.
In Australia, pregnant women are told to avoid all soft and semi-soft blue cheeses, even if pasteurized (source: Food Standards Australia).
When I gained my certification in Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy from LMU (Munich) the advice was the same as the UK: that pregnant women should avoid all soft cheeses, even if they are made with pasteurized milk.
In 2013 The Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism Journal published a German paper which also stated: “Raw meat products, smoked fish and soft cheeses, also those made from pasteurized milk, present a high risk of containing pathogenic listeria” (source: Karger)
Therefore, on balance, if you want to be super careful, then you should avoid soft blue cheese in pregnancy, whether it is made from pasteurized milk or not.
Pregnant women can eat hard blue cheeses, if they’re made from pasteurized milk. This is because the water content in them is much lower and they are unlikely to contain listeria.
Examples of hard blue cheeses that are safe to eat in pregnancy:
- Bay Blue by Point Reyes
- Danish Blue (if hard and crumbly, rather than creamy)
- Kraft‘s hard blue cheeses and crumbles (all Kraft’s cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, as confirmed on their website)
- Huntsman (Stilton layered with Double Gloucester)
- Salemville’s Amish Blue – I asked them and they confirmed that their Smokehaus, Blue Reserve, Blue Wedge, and all blue cheese crumbles are all made from pasteurized milk
- Stilton (but not the almost-identical Stichelton, which is unpasteurized)
- Other generic blue cheese that is hard and crumbly
Which Dishes or Products Containing Blue Cheese Are Pregnancy-Safe?
It’s safe to eat blue cheese products that are both made from hard cheese and are pasteurized. Below is a list of blue cheese products that are safe in pregnancy:
Blue Cheese Sauce
For example, the type you’d find on a steak or as a pasta topping. This is safe if made with a hard blue cheese, and made from pasteurized ingredients. All commercially-made blue cheese sauce will contain pasteurized ingredients and therefore be safe to eat in pregnancy.
Check the ingredients of restaurant-made or homemade blue cheese sauces, as these may contain other ingredients you have to check for pasteurization, such as cream or eggs.
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Blue Cheese crumbles (also sometimes called ‘Bleu Cheese’) are safe if made from pasteurized milk. For example, the type sold in tubs and used as a salad topping. These are safe if they’re made from a hard cheese rather than a soft cheese. They usually are, as softer blue cheeses don’t ‘crumble’.
Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
Most, if not all commercially-produced salad dressings are made with pasteurized ingredients and are made from a hard blue cheese. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s displayed on a shelf rather than in a refrigerator, it’s pasteurized.
For example, popular ‘off the shelf’ brands like Kraft, Newman’s Own, Wish-Bone, Walden Farms and Brianna’s dressings are all made from pasteurized ingredients and are safe in pregnancy.
This may not be the case with ‘fresh’ dressings you find in the refrigerator section of a supermarket or grocery store. Blue cheese dressing made from fresh ingredients may contain unpasteurized ingredients, soft blue cheese, or other foods to avoid like raw egg. Always check the label of ‘fresh’ dressings as their ingredients vary so much.
Blue Cheese Dip
Dip can be treated the same way as blue cheese salad dressing. Commercial, shelf-stable (non-chilled) blue cheese dips are usually made with pasteurized ingredients. If they’re made with hard cheese and pasteurized ingredients then they’re pregnancy-safe.
If the blue cheese dip is in the chilled section, check the label first as it may contain other ingredients you need to look out for, such as milk, cream or egg.
Why Pregnant Women Should Avoid Soft Blue Cheeses (With Examples)
Pregnant women should avoid all soft blue cheeses, even if they’re made from pasteurized milk. This is because their increased water content makes them more likely than other cheeses to contain listeria (source: NHS).
Examples of soft blue cheeses that should be avoided are:
- Blue Brie
- Bleu d’Auvergne
- Blue Camembert
- Cashel Blue
- “Danish Blue” (could be many makers, but avoid the soft, ‘creamy’ or spreadable types)
- Fourme d’Ambert
- Saint Agur
If you can’t decide if a blue cheese is soft, a good rule of thumb is that if you can spread it without it crumbling apart, it’s soft. All soft blue cheeses are unsafe if eaten as they are, i.e. chilled or at room temperature. However, soft blue cheese can be heated to make it safe, as described below.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cooked Blue Cheese?
All cheese (blue or not) is safe to eat in pregnancy if it’s been heated until hot, rather than just warmed.
Blue cheeses don’t usually heat well, as the blue mold and fat separate, but if you really want to eat soft or unpasteurized blue cheese, it’s safe if it’s cooked.
You can heat it up until sizzling (if as a topping) or almost boiling (if in a sauce, for example) to make it safe. This ensures the temperature it reaches should be over 165F / 75c, which will kill any listeria present.
Eating Blue Cheese on Pizza When Pregnant
Pregnant women can eat blue cheese on a pizza, if the blue cheese is cooked. This isn’t always clear-cut because softer cheeses (which you should avoid) might be added after the main pizza is cooked.
If the cheese is cooked until sizzling on top of the pizza, then it’s safe to eat in pregnancy.
If the cheese is added towards the end of cooking, or after cooking (this is common with softer cheeses) then they’re not safe to eat as they haven’t been adequately heated.
If you’re ordering a pizza or calzone that has a soft blue cheese on it, then ask for it to be cooked with the rest of the topping or for longer than usual. The blue cheese should be sizzling hot, not just warm, in order for it to be safe to eat in pregnancy.
Finally, if you’re wondering about blue cheese dipping sauce made by Domino’s, then this is safe to eat because Dominos’ make their blue cheese dip from pasteurized ingredients. You might also be interested in this article I wrote with a list of pregnancy-safe pizza toppings, too.