Yes, pregnant women can’t eat feta cheese… not until you could confidently tell the milk used is pasteurized. In the US, most of the soft cheeses (99%) you bought from the store are pasteurized, including feta. However some labeled clearly on the package, some are not. Especially those imported cheeses, or those obtained from the smaller artisanal producers.
In fact, here is “don’t eat” from The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes for moms-to-be:
Soft cheeses like Feta, Brie, and Camembert, “blue-veined cheeses,” or “queso blanco,” “queso fresco,” or Panela – unless they’re made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says, “made with pasteurized milk.”
And, you should take it seriously. Foodborne illness such as listeriosis can cause miscarriage or even death (1). Arguably, some claimed that pasteurization destroyed important vitamins and the benefits of “nature’s perfect food”(2).
While the Greek Feta Imported is usually pasteurized, some other styles may be made from unpasteurized raw milk.
So how do we choose the right feta?
Well, physically they look the same. The golden rule is of course only choose those stated clearly that the product is made from the pasteurized milk, and to avoid any raw milk product.
Below I have compiled a list of popular resellers of feta, and grouped them accordingly so that you can make a better decision. Double-checked!
|Brand / Provider / Product||Milk Pasteurization|
|Vintage (Bulgarian Feta by Yorsan)||Unclear|
|Athenos (Tomato & Basil Feta)||Yes|
|Breeze Meadows Farm (Herb Feta)||Not pasteurized|
|Real Greek (Brined Feta P.D.O.)||Yes|
|Tesco (Yamas Feta)||Yes|
Another tip for you is to look at the ingredient used on its package label. The unpasteurized milk will normally stated as “raw milk”.
What if you accidentally eat unpasteurized feta?
While it’s not recommended due to the potential risk, having the unpasteurized feta doesn’t mean the end of the world. It’s common for pregnant women to accidentally eat unsuitable foods without even realizing in the first place. Most likely, you will be okay.
After all, it all comes down to your body immune system. If you don’t feel fine or really worry about it, please always consult a medical proffesional. Usually, it will take 1-4 weeks to show the symptoms.
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle aches
The symptoms are common and can be difficult to know if you have listeriosis. You can learn more here.
The 60-day rule for safe pasteurized feta? No, just no.
The 60-day rule means if the cheese is not aged for 60 days or above, it must be made with pasteurized milk to avoid harmful bacteria. This includes many of the fresh soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone, queso blanco and ricotta. So for that reason, they have to be pasteurized to be shelved in the US.
If over 60 days old, the cheese can be made from either pasteurized or unpasteurized milk since aged long enough to kill harmful bacteria.
Feta is aged for a minimum of 3 months. However, finding had showed listeria survived for 90 days aged at low pH.
Therefore, the key takeaway here is for the pregnant women or anyone with compromised immune system, to only eat the feta made from the pasteurized milk.