Can You Eat Swiss Cheese in Pregnancy? Is It Safe?

Photo of author

Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

Published on

BabyFacts logo

Swiss is one of those cheeses you find everywhere – in sandwiches, wraps, and in salads. If you’re about to enjoy some Swiss and you’re pregnant – is it safe?

Swiss cheese is safe for pregnant women if it’s pasteurized up to 161 °F (72 °C) for 15 seconds. Aged Swiss cheese is safe during pregnancy if it’s a hard cheese. If it’s not pasteurized or only partially pasteurized cheese, it should be cooked prior to consumption to make it safe cheese. 

Are all Swiss cheeses the same? Should I be worried that it’s a ripened cheese? What are safe brands available on the market? Find out the answers below! 

Is Swiss Cheese Safe During Pregnancy?

Swiss cheese is safe to eat during pregnancy if it’s pasteurized up to 161 °F (72 °C) for 15 seconds. If it’s unpasteurized cheese, it’s recommended that you cook it first, unless it’s aged and is a harder type of cheese.

Swiss cheese, like the name suggests, comes from Switzerland. However, there is now made in the U.S. For the purposes of pregnancy safety, you can treat both types the same way.

This cheese is one of the most difficult types of cheese to produce. Manufacturing demands the right equipment, experience, and operation. Thus, it is not recommended to produce Swiss cheese at home (source: USDA). 

The Swiss cheese available in the U.S., called American Swiss, is sometimes mistaken for Emmental cheese. 

swiss cheese on lettuce leaves

This cheese is an aged cheese which means it is ripened through the addition of bacteria. Regarding its safety, there is no sufficient data available on the possible pathogenic effects of these bacteria (source: Journal of Food Protection).  

It is considered hard, although semi-hard is also available. Like cheddar, Swiss cheese can be eaten by lactose-intolerant individuals because it contains little to no lactose. The lactose is removed during the production process (source: National Dairy Council). 

Is Swiss Cheese Pasteurized?

Swiss cheese is one of the cheeses that can use raw milk, partially-pasteurized milk, or pasteurized milk. The necessary safe temperatures for each also vary.

Swiss cheese that is made in the US is most likely pasteurized. Imported ones, like authentic Swiss cheese, may not be. However, because it’s a hard cheese, it’s still likely safe for pregnant women, even if it’s unpasteurized – especially if it’s aged.

Both Swiss and Emmental cheeses are not required to use pasteurized milk products. It is optional for the manufacturer. But, both must be aged 60 days (source: Harvard Library). 

The reason why milk used in some of these cheeses is not fully pasteurized is that this will give the right elasticity to the cheese and form its distinctive eyes (holes).

Research reports that pasteurization can take place at 157°F (69.4 °C) for 15 seconds (source: Utah State University).

Pieces of Swiss cheese

However, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, using a High-temperature Short Time Pasteurization (HTST), the most common pasteurization process in the U.S. Pasteurization should be at 161 °F (72 °C) for 15 seconds followed by immediate and fast cooling (source: International Dairy Foods Association).

As you can see, pasteurization methods can differ. But when the right pasteurization temperature is not achieved, possible pathogenic microbes can contaminate the cheese and cause health risks. If you’re ever unsure, just heat the cheese up to make it safe.

During pregnancy, it’s best to opt for pasteurized ones that use the proper pasteurization temperature and techniques. Cheeses usually state on the food label whether they are pasteurized or not.

Some pasteurized kind of these cheeses you can find in the market that are safe for pregnancy include:

Is Swiss Cheese Fondue Safe When Pregnant?

Pasteurized Swiss cheese fondue is usually safe because the cheese is heated up. However, sometimes there’s alcohol in fondue to maintain the “runny” nature of the cheese, so it’s best to check what else is in it. For more on fondue during pregnancy, see our dedicated article here.

Overall, Swiss cheese is usually pregnancy safe, and can go well with asparagus, dried fruits, roasted meat, and even with crackers as a protein-rich snack.