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Jun 17, 2013 11:27 AM

Confused about pasturized milk/cheese making process/listeria

As a paranoid pregnant person, I've tried to avoid cheeses that may have listeria. I find the quality of information about what cheeses to avoid and why inconsistent***. There seems to be 2 reasons to avoid certain cheeses: 1. young cheeses with unpasteurized milk and 2. cheeses that get infected with listeria after making.

Here are my questions:

1. Is it possible to even make cheese without pasturizing milk in the process? I've made ricotta and paneer at home, and am certain I'm cooking the milk far longer than the 15 seconds @ 72C that the USDA requires.

2. Most of the comments about cheeses getting infected after being made are soft cheese, but it seems like even gouda is not immune.

Does anybody have any clearer info?

*** This is where I've found info.

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  1. Hi relizabeth. I am also pregnant and it is confusing!

    After reading everything I could on the internet and talking to my doctor I am avoiding all raw milk cheeses and all blue cheeses (for only 5 more weeks, yay!). I am not an expert on cheesemaking, but I assume if the label says raw milk it has not been pasteurized.

    My understanding of the latest guidelines is that soft cheeses are fine as long as they are pasteurized (per your second Mayo clinic link). That being said, it is definitely a personal decision and you have to decide what you are comfortable with.

    Some things I have learned: Definitely be sure to ask in restaurants if the cheeses on salads are made with pasteurized milk - I have been shocked at how often the answer is no. Also - if the label doesn't specifically say pasteurized milk (just says "cows milk") either check with someone in the cheese department to be sure it is pasteurized (depending on how much you trust them) or just pick another one - it apparently isn't required to say if a cheese is raw milk on the label.

    Congratulations and try not to worry too much! It is hard, I know!

    2 Replies
    1. re: EmBrooks

      I've got 9 weeks to go, and have husband planning on bringing me a huge wedge of blue cheese in hospital.

      1. re: relizabeth

        Ha - good idea. I told mine he wasn't going to have to worry about cooking for the first few months - bring on the sushi, rare beef, raw milk cheeses, etc....

    2. Yes. It is possible to make cheeses without pasteurizing. They're called uncooked or raw milk. However, young raw milk cheeses are illegal in the US. Therefore, you shouldn't even be able to find a raw milk
      Brie raw milk cheeses aged sixty days or longer are the only cheeses legal here. I think the "do not eat" list of foods obgyns give us is silly. I'm a cheesemonger. Part of my job iIs to eat cheese. I ate everything with both of my pregnancies and my boys turned out ok!

      3 Replies
      1. re: themamacurd

        Anecdotal evidence from one person is not evidence. However, hundreds of millions of women in Europe eating raw milk cheeses is. I really hate the magical thinking behind all these pregnancy dos and don'ts: if you just follow all the ever-growing list of rules, everything will be perfect (with the unspoken corollary being that if everything isn't perfect, then it must be the woman's fault). In this case, there's a miniscule chance you could get listeria from eating raw milk cheese, and if you do, there's a miniscule chance that could affect the baby. Be reasonable and don't feel guilty! I guarantee you that driving to the doctor for all those pre-natal visits is riskier!

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Enjoy the pregnancy. It is not an illness. Do what your ob/gyn and you are comfortable with.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            French ob/gyns are now recommending that the mamans avoid raw-milk cheeses during pregnancy.

            Do keep in mind that listeria can appear on any refrigerated commercial food -- lunchmeats are particularly susceptible to listeria contamination. (just trying to not heap all the guilt on beloved cheeses)

        2. Certainly do whatever your Ob-Gyn says but realize Listeria is an opportunist bacteria and is only a problem in improperly pasteurized cheese. Is not a worry in raw milk product.
          In another thread currently on cheese board,the cheese listed, Les Frere from Crave Bros, is a pasteurized one, as are all their product.