Gruyere is a sweet cheese with a nutty flavor which makes it very popular. However, with concerns about milk safety, it’s no wonder that pregnant women will find themselves checking if it’s okay to eat first.
Gruyere is a hard cheese which means it’s generally safe during pregnancy, whether it is pasteurized or not. Pregnant women can safely enjoy gruyere cold, although it’s also delicious cooked or melted.
However, it’s not just as simple as if cheese is soft or hard during pregnancy. I’ll walk you through the safety considerations of gruyere during pregnancy and how to enjoy it.
Is Gruyere Safe for Pregnant Women?
All hard cheeses, which include gruyere, are generally safe during pregnancy (source: NHS).
While the fact that gruyere has not been pasteurized may be a concern, all hard cheeses are considered reasonably safe during pregnancy as they are less likely to be contaminated.
The reason unpasteurized hard cheeses are considered safe is because pathogens like listeria need water to thrive and grow. However, gruyere and other hard cheeses have a low water content (which is what makes them hard, and not soft).
Studies have also shown that aged cheeses, even when made with raw milk, are reasonably safe (source: American Dairy Products Institute). This study was based on cheeses aged at least 60 days. Gruyere is usually aged 6 months but varies from 4 to 10 months.
The reason aged cheese is considered safer is because the water content diminishes over time. As listeria needs moisture to grow, hard cheeses are not as habitable to the bacteria as soft cheeses (source: Center for Food Safety).
Authentic gruyere is made from the milk of cows with a clean diet of no silage. It is added to copper cauldrons with culture and rennet but is not heated before it is curdled. After it has been molded it is compressed for 20 hours and soaked in brine before it is aged.
An effort is made to prevent the growth of bacteria as it is carefully brushed and turned. Authentic gruyere is aged in cellars for at least five months (source: Castello).
Swiss Gruyere and gruyere are the same things as gruyere is simply a type of Swiss cheese, but there are a few brands in Germany and the US with various names.
Is Gruyere Cheese Pasteurized?
Gruyere is generally made with unpasteurized milk but remember that hard cheeses, even when they’re raw, are considered reasonably safe because they are less likely to be contaminated with listeria and other pathogens.
In the USA it is illegal to sell unpasteurized cheese and dairy products across state lines. The only exception is cheeses that are aged for more than 60 days (source: CDC). This means that most store-bought or commercially produced gruyere cheese in the US should be pasteurized anyway, and therefore safe for pregnant women to eat.
It’s worth pointing out that not all US cheese is pasteurized because some artisan brands or farm shops use raw milk (source: FDA).
Gruyere is a Swiss cheese so authentic Swiss gruyere will be unpasteurized, while European cheese in general also tends to be unpasteurized. Cheese and other dairy products in European countries do not always meet FDA requirements when it comes to milk safety (Source: CANR). However, as I mentioned before, the hardness of gruyere means it’s safe – even when made with unpasteurized milk.
On the other side of the globe, raw cheeses are banned in Australia which means any Australian-made gruyere would have been pasteurized.
Raw milk products are legal in most of the UK, including England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, it can only be sold by registered milk production farms or by farmers at registered farmers’ markets (source: Food Standards Agency).
Most gruyere has been imported from Switzerland. You do get other producers calling it “gruyere”, but it’s not authentic. A Wisconsin-based cheesemaker in 2013 even agreed to stop referring to their cheese as gruyere due to pressure from its Swiss parent and the Swiss gruyère industry.
Can I Eat Gruyere During Pregnancy if it’s Cooked?
While gruyere is safe cold or uncooked when pregnant, you might feel better cooking it. Cooking food to 165F/75c first will kill any pathogens that may be present.
Gruyere melts in a delicious creamy nutty cheese sauce which is great as a dip or in cheesy-recipes. If you’ve got a pregnancy craving for gruyere, here are some ideas:
Baked gruyere makes a perfect fondue when seasoned with chopped rosemary, and thyme and garlic. You can have a light lunch by dipping in crackers or a baguette.
Cheese toastie. Gruyere cheese melts perfectly in a sandwich and is perfect with mushrooms or on its own.
Examples of Pregnancy-Safe Gruyere Brands
Gruyere manufacturers outside of Switzerland are few and far between. Most store-bought brands will be imported from Europe. All gruyere brands indicate if they have been made with raw milk and how long they have been aged on the label.
To save you time and effort when it comes to reading labels here’s a list of gruyere cheese brands that are okay to eat during pregnancy:
- Supermarket own-brands (e.g. Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes)
- Red apple cheese (has been pasteurized)
- Dietz & Watson Originals (has been pasteurized)
- Amazon Fresh
- Grand suisse le gruyere
- Gourmet food world
- Any cheese aged over 60 days
Overall, while most gruyere cheeses are unpasteurized, this is still a safe (and delicious) cheese to enjoy during pregnancy; whether cooked or uncooked – so feel free to enjoy it safely when pregnant.