Cheese is one of those pregnancy topics that is never clear-cut because much of its safety relies on how it’s made and stored.
If a good pungent, gooey brie is one of your favorites, then you’ve probably wondered if you should eat it during pregnancy.
Brie is generally considered to be safe during pregnancy if it’s made from pasteurized milk. However, as it’s also a soft cheese, the risk of listeria is higher than semi-soft or hard cheeses. Brie can be made safe by cooking or heating it.
The problem is that in some countries, women are told to avoid all types of brie when pregnant – even if it’s made with pasteurized milk.
Other guidelines say that brie is fine when you’re pregnant, so long as it’s pasteurized. Confusing, right?
Here, we’ll break down all the official guidelines on brie, and let you know the circumstances where you can eat brie safely when you’re pregnant, too.
Is Pasteurized Brie Safe During Pregnancy?
Different countries have different guidelines on the safety of brie and whether it’s OK if it’s pasteurized. These are:
In the UK, women are advised not to eat brie when pregnant because it’s a soft, mold-ripened cheese (source: NHS). This is the case even if it’s made with pasteurized milk.
In Canada, it’s the same – women are told to avoid all soft cheeses like brie, even if they’re pasteurized (Source: Canadian Govt.)
In the USA, the FDA says that you can eat brie safely during pregnancy, but only if it’s made with pasteurized milk (source: FDA).
In Australia pregnant women are advised to avoid brie, even if it’s pasteurized (source: Food Standards Australia)
In New Zealand, pregnant women are advised that “generally” they shouldn’t eat large quantities of uncooked brie but it’s OK if made with pasteurized milk (source: New Zealand Food Safety).
What about France, the home of brie itself? The French government says brie is OK when pregnant as long as it’s made with pasteurized milk (source: French Department of Agriculture).
Which Brie Guidelines Should I Follow?
Logically you could take the advice of your own national government and health department as they have good knowledge of food industry standards in your country.
However, you are free to make an independent and informed choice – that’s what Pregnancy Food Checker is here for!
Least Risky: If you want to take the least risk, then avoid brie completely unless it’s heated until steaming hot or cooked (thankfully brie can still be delicious when it’s cooked – more on this later).
Slight Risk: Alternatively, you could stick to pasteurized brie if you want to eat it cold and not cooked (e.g. in a sandwich).
This would carry a very small, but slightly elevated risk of listeria due to its high water content and low acidity (source: Journal of Food Protection).
Greater Risk: Unpasteurized (i.e. raw milk) cold, uncooked brie should always be avoided in pregnancy as it has the highest risk of listeria contamination.
Which leads us to the next common question:
Is Brie Pasteurized?
Whether brie is pasteurized also depends on where you are buying it, and which country you’re in.
In the United States, most cheeses are pasteurized. The FDA banned the sale of raw milk because of possible contamination from campylobacter, e.coli, salmonella, and listeria (Source: CDC).
However, you can still come across unpasteurized cheeses in some farmers markets in the US, so it’s worth checking when you buy to make sure the cheese you purchase is pasteurized.
In Australia, most cheeses are also pasteurized for the same reasons.
However, imports of Brie from France are common in the UK, continental Europe, and some parts of Canada.
These imported cheeses can be unpasteurized. You’ll have to check the label as there are many different types of brie.
In France itself, however, you will find many unpasteurized cheeses are widely available, so you’ll need to check labels diligently, or ask to be on the safe side.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cooked Brie?
As long as brie has been cooked until it’s steaming hot, it is safe for pregnant women to eat.
“Steaming hot” means the brie should be cooked or heated to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 C).
At this temperature, any dangerous bacteria in the food will have been killed and the cheese, therefore, will be safe to eat (Source: HealthLink).
Brie Dishes and Pregnancy Safety
Here are the most common ways of eating brie, and whether they’re safe or not in pregnancy:
Deep-fried brie is safe to eat during pregnancy, as deep-fried foods are cooked in oil at around 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Deep-fried brie is typically brie that is rolled in an egg batter and breadcrumbs and is then fried and served with cranberry or another type of chutney.
It’s pretty calorific though, so bear in mind the saturated fat and calorie content if you’re indulging when pregnant.
Baked brie is OK for pregnant women to eat, as long as the cheese is steaming hot when served. Check the middle of the cheese, ideally with a food thermometer (our recommended ones are on this page).
Baked brie is usually prepared at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177C). This includes baked brie in puff pastry, in quiches, and in pies.
Brie On Pizza
Pizza topped with brie is only safe to eat if it’s added as a topping from the beginning, as pizza is cooked at very high temperatures.
However, if it’s merely scattered on the pizza towards the end of cooking, it may not be cooked enough. For more on this, check out our pizza topping safety article.
Brie in Paninis, Hot Sandwiches or Toasties
Although a panini press can reach 375 degrees F / 190C, the cheese inside the bread is likely to be colder.
If the brie has only just melted, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat. Brie melts at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which means listeria and other harmful bacteria could still be present.
Your best bet is to ask for the filling to be cooked longer, or if making it yourself, or ordering takeout – zap the brie in the microwave until it’s steaming hot. This will make it safe to eat.
Which Brands of Brie are Pasteurized?
If you want to eat pasteurized brie, here are some popular pasteurized brie brands you can try in the USA:
- Trader Joes
- La Bonne Vie
- Mon Sire
- Fromager D’Affinois
- Notre Dame
And in the UK:
- Coeur de Lion
- Caprice des Dieux
- Reflets de France
If You Accidentally Ate Unpasteurized Brie When Pregnant
In the United States, roughly 1,600 cases of listeriosis occur per year. Only about one in seven cases occur in pregnant women, which is about 200 cases per year (Source: CDC).
Given that there are nearly 4 million pregnancies per year in the US, that means that the odds are slim of you contracting listeria if you’ve accidentally eaten unpasteurized brie.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that pregnant women don’t usually show the typical signs of listeriosis (vomiting and diarrhea).
The most common symptom of listeriosis in pregnancy is fever, though some women don’t have symptoms at all (source: ACOG).
If you have a fever or any flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and fatigue, or if you are overly worried, then it’s best to consult your health professional.
In conclusion, if you choose to eat brie, you can do so with full knowledge of the risk level.
The safest is only eating cooked or steaming hot brie, and if you want to eat brie cold, make sure that it is made with pasteurized milk.