Can Pregnant Women Eat Gouda Cheese? Is It Safe?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Gouda is a generic term for many kinds of cheese, so sometimes it’s not easy to check it for pregnancy safety. Gouda can be a semi-hard cheese, or hard, mature cheese, and the type of milk used varies, too.

Can Pregnant women eat Gouda cheese? Many types of Gouda cheese are safe in pregnancy. This is because Gouda is a semi-hard to hard cheese. The low water content of Gouda means that it’s unlikely to harbor listeria, whether or not it’s made from pasteurized milk.

If you’re a pregnant Gouda fan, you’re probably wondering which type is semi-hard, how to tell, and what the brand names are that you can definitely eat during pregnancy. All your questions will be answered here!

Is Gouda Cheese Pasteurized?

Unlike many other kinds of cheese, “Gouda” doesn’t refer to a particular, protected cheese. It’s used more as a generic term for a certain Dutch-style cheese (a bit like cheddar, which is also named after a place, but refers more to the way it’s made).

This means that there’s no one accepted way to make Gouda. Gouda can be made in many ways, with either unpasteurized or pasteurized milk.

However, Gouda is generally safe for pregnant women to eat, as it’s classed as a semi-hard or hard cheese. These types of cheese are so low in water content, it’s unlikely that listeria will survive in Gouda, even when it’s made from unpasteurized milk. Listeria is more prevalent in soft, not hard cheese (source: Journal of Food Microbiology).

As a general rule, most Gouda cheeses are made from pasteurized milk, simply because producers choose to do so. This is usually stated on the label.

Unpasteurized Gouda does exist, for example, some artisan varieties that are still made in the Netherlands. This is still safe to eat because of the fact Gouda is a hard cheese, that listeria is unlikely to survive in.

There are also laws for producing any cheese from unpasteurized milk. For example, any Gouda made in the USA from unpasteurized milk has to be aged for at least 60 days. The aging process further reduces the likelihood of bacteria surviving in the cheese (source: Food Microbiology Journal).

The upshot of this for pregnancy? You can eat all types of Gouda when you’re pregnant, as its hard or semi-hard texture and aging process make it very unlikely that it will harbor bacteria.

display of gouda cheese in a store

Does The Type of Milk Matter?

Gouda is most commonly made with cow’s milk, but there are some alternative versions made of ewe or goat milk, too. These are more common in The Netherlands and Europe.

The type of milk used in production makes no difference to Gouda’s pregnancy safety – all Gouda can be treated the same way, and is usually safe in pregnancy.

Is Aged Gouda Safe in Pregnancy?

Sometimes I’m asked whether aged cheese is better, or unsafe in pregnancy.

The older the Gouda, the harder it will be – some of the oldest Gouda cheeses can be aged up to two years or more. They turn very hard, almost brittle, and take on a darker color. It also becomes slightly sweeter.

Aged Gouda is probably even ‘safer’ than young Gouda, if you had to choose between the two. Young Gouda is perfectly safe, but aged Gouda is more so, because it loses water as it ages and hardens. This makes it almost impossible for bacteria to survive in it (source: NHS).

smoked gouda cheese on wooden table

Can I Have Smoked Gouda When I’m Pregnant?

Cheeses are always cold-smoked at low temperatures, otherwise, they’d melt during the smoking process. This means that the level of heat used in the smoking process isn’t enough to ‘cook’ the cheese, or kill bacteria.

Gouda has a hard enough texture that it’s safe to eat, whether it’s smoked or not. The smoking process only alters the taste – it makes no difference to Gouda being safe in pregnancy.

Can Gouda only be eaten when it’s Cooked, in Pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant you might already know that some cheeses are only safe if they’re fully cooked. This applies to soft cheese only (for a full list of cheeses that can’t be eaten unless cooked, check out this ultimate pregnancy cheese list).

Because Gouda is a hard or semi-hard cheese, it’s safe in pregnancy, even if it’s not ‘cooked’ or heated. You can eat it straight out of the packet, or cut from a wheel of whole cheese. The same goes for shredded or grated Gouda, too.

Spreadable Gouda is often Gouda cheese blended with other ingredients, and is often a processed, pasteurized product. If the Gouda you’re checking is spreadable, then that should be made from pasteurized ingredients to be safe in pregnancy.

Regular, hard pieces of Gouda are safe, regardless of pasteurization.

Which Gouda Brands are Safe in Pregnancy?

For the avoidance of doubt and to make your life easier, here are some brands of Gouda that are safe in pregnancy:

  • Boar’s Head
  • iGourmet
  • Dutch Mill
  • Any supermarket own-brand (e.g. Trader Joes, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Publix, Asda, Walmart, Waitrose, Morrisons, Whole Foods)
  • HolanDeli
  • Frico
  • Beemster
  • Dutch Tradition
  • Cornish Gouda

grated gouda cheese and a grater

Is Gouda Good or Healthy for Pregnant Women?

Like most hard cheeses, Gouda is fairly high in saturated fat, with about 5g per 1oz (28g) of cheese. However, it’s also a good source of protein and calcium (source: Nutrition Data).

If you’re eating Gouda in pregnancy, you can make it go further or use it creatively to pep up some other dishes, because it melts really well. Some examples:

  • Adding it to salads and sandwiches (there’s a pregnancy guide to sandwiches right here)
  • Using it to gratinate vegetables – that’s a melted breadcrumb and cheese topping, put under the broiler until melted and golden. Yum!
  • Making pasta bakes with veg, fish or other healthy options
  • Used as a hot jacket potato topping

Smoked Gouda is also a good option if you prefer a smoky flavor, too.

Finally, I often get asked if it’s safe for pregnant women to eat Starbucks’ Bacon and Gouda Roll. Sometimes it comes with an egg frittata version, too.

Yes, you can eat the bacon and Gouda roll from Starbucks – all the ingredients in it are pregnancy-safe. The eggs in the frittata are fully cooked and are also fine in pregnancy, as are all the cheeses. It’s best to make sure it’s served hot, not just warm, when you order it.

For more on this, check out this guide to sandwich fillings in pregnancy. You can also read all about eating bacon when you’re pregnant and there’s an ultimate cheese list in pregnancy, too – if you’ve ever wondered which cheeses, besides Gouda, are safe for you to have.

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