Eating Feta​ Cheese While Pregnant?

Unlike drier cheeses like parmesan and cheddar which can be stored for a longer period, feta cheese is brined, soft and wet. So, It’s prone to spoilage.

You can read more about How Long Does Feta Last?

With that being said, pregnant women are not advised to eat feta and other soft cheeses such as mozzarella and brie… especially if you are not sure whether it’s pasteurized.

So, is feta cheese Okay for pregnancy? The answer is ‘maybe’ for pasteurized feta, and ‘no’ for unknown/unpasteurized feta.

In the US, most soft cheeses (99%) you bought from the store are pasteurized, including feta and Greek feta. However, you may not find the pasteurization label on it, or simply forget to check.

Pasteurization can be a little concerning for imported feta cheeses from oversea, or those that obtained from smaller brands or artisanal cheesemakers. Some feta are not fully pasteurized, not regulated, or uses a sub-pasteurization method called thermization which is a similar but weaker heat treatment.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) places same restriction on thermized cheese as unpasteurized cheese.

Here is a note from the FDA:

Soft cheeses like Feta… unless they’re made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says, “made with pasteurized milk.”

The food and drug administration

Unpasteurized cheese meaning a higher chances of harmful bacteria in it. Foodborne illness such as listeriosis can cause miscarriage or even death (1). However In the Europe or some other traditions may look it otherwise as they prefer to use thermized or raw milk instead for a better flavor and nutrient.

It’s hard to deny that pasteurization will inevitably destroy some important vitamins and the pro- raw milk advocate organization continue to promote the benefits of ‘nature’s perfect food’(2). What about your thought?

So, how to choose the right feta for pregnant?

They are many brands and styles of feta cheese. Which one is pasteurized and which is not.

Below I have compiled a list of popular sellers and brands of feta, and grouped them accordingly so that you can make a better decision. I have linked them to Amazon too (affiliate) for your convenient, make sure to always double-checked on the label!

Brand / Provider / ProductMilk Pasteurization
igourmet (See Pasteurized Greek Sampler)Yes
Dodoni Yes
Vintage (Bulgarian Feta by Yorsan)Unclear
Meredith DairyUnclear
Indo EuropeanUnclear
Athenos (Tomato & Basil Feta)Yes
Treasure CaveYes
Breeze Meadows Farm (Herb Feta)Not pasteurized
President Yes
Real Greek (Brined Feta P.D.O.)Yes
Tesco (Yamas Feta)Yes
Mt. VikosYes
Organic VallyYes

Another tip for you is to look at the ingredient used on its package label. The unpasteurized feta will normally stated with “raw milk”.

Image showed the machines for a series of pasteurization steps. The milk is standardized (fat ratio) and pasteurized.

What if you accidentally ate unpasteurized feta?

While it’s not the end of the world, eating unpasteurized feta while pregnant will give you the potential risk but it’s not certain.

After all, it all comes down to your body immune system where it will show the symptoms in the next few days. If that worried you, please consult a medical professional.

The symptoms

  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. You can learn more about listeriosis here.

Does the 60-day-safe-cheese rule applies to feta?

Have you heard about the 60-day rule for cheese?

The 60-day rule means if the cheese has not been 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. In the US, they have to be pasteurized to be shelved.

If over 60 days old, the cheese can then be made from either pasteurized or unpasteurized milk since aging long enough will kill harmful bacteria.

Feta is usually aged for a minimum of 3 months. However, findings showed listeria survived for 90 days even aged at low pH. Therefore, it’s best to avoid the unpasteurized feta regardless of aging duration.

The key takeaway here is for the pregnant women or anyone with compromised immune system, including children and elderly, to only eat feta made from the pasteurized milk.

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