Is Pecorino Romano a Safe Cheese During Pregnancy? 

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Cheese is one of the foods that gets checked the most on this site, so we decided to tackle one of the most popular Italian ones – Pecorino.

Pecorino Romano is safe to eat during pregnancy because it’s usually a pasteurized cheese. It’s also a hard cheese, which makes it harder for bacteria to survive due to its lower water content.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at the safety profile of Pecorino Romano cheese during pregnancy. We’ll also provide tips for enjoying this delicious cheese safely while you’re expecting, too.

Is Pecorino Romano Cheese Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk and is a good source of protein and calcium. Pecorino cheese originates from the island of Sardinia, Italy. It has a sharp, salty flavor and is often used as a grating cheese.

Pecorino Romano is categorized as hard cheese, which means it is safe for pregnant women to eat. Hard cheeses are less likely than soft cheeses to harbor harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness (source: Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology).

pecorino romano cheese on a plate

When selecting Pecorino Romano, look for a high-quality cheese that has matured for at least two months (source: Harvard). Pre-shredded cheeses are often of lesser quality (source: KCET.org).

Pecorino Romano cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, both of which are needed during pregnancy:

  • Protein: Protein is essential for the growth and development of the baby (source: J-Stage Journal). Pregnant women’s recommended daily protein intake is 11 grams per day for babies between 7-12 months (source: SFGate). One ounce of Pecorino Romano cheese contains 8.1 grams of protein (source: USDA).
  • Calcium: Calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth for the unborn baby (source: The National Academies Journal).  Pregnant women need about 1,200 mg of calcium per day (European Journal of Nutrition). One ounce of Pecorino Romano cheese contains 200 mg of calcium (source: USDA).

Is Pecorino Romano the Same as Romano Cheese?

Pecorino Romano is not the same as Romano cheese. Pecorino Romano is a type of cheese made from sheep’s milk, while Romano cheese is made from cow’s milk. Pecorino Romano has a sharper, saltier flavor than Romano cheese.

You’ll find two kinds of Pecorino Romano in the store: 

  • Pecorino Romano PDO (Protected Designation of Origin): Made only in specific regions of Italy using only sheep’s milk.
  • Pecorino Romano: May be made with a mixture of sheep’s and cow’s milk outside of the PDO regions.

PDO means that the cheese must be made following specific guidelines in order to receive the protected designation. The PDO designation guarantees that the cheese has been made using traditional methods in a specific region of Italy (source: Microorganism Journal).

For the purposes of pregnancy safety, you can treat both types of cheese the same way. Because of US and UK food regulations (source: FDA and Gov.UK), both types of Pecorino Romano are safe to eat during pregnancy. Both countries strictly regulate the cheese they produce. This is likely the same in many other countries, too.

two slices of pecorino romano cheese with herb on a wooden plate

Is Pecorino Romano Pasteurized?

Pecorino Romano cheese is made from sheep’s milk. In the United States, all sheep’s milk must be pasteurized before it can be used to make cheese. Pasteurization is the process of heating raw milk to a high temperature to kill bad bacteria.

However, even though Pecorino Romano cheese is sometimes using unpasteurized milk, it is still safe to eat during pregnancy. This is because hard cheese has a  low moisture content, which makes it difficult for bacteria to grow (source: Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology).

Pregnant women should always choose high-quality cheeses where possible and still follow safe storage and food handling and hygiene practices.

We hope this puts your mind at rest when eating and enjoying Pecorino during pregnancy!