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Why: Cheeses like feta, goat cheese, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, and Mexican queso fresco or queso blanco are more apt to be made with unpasteurized milk than harder cheeses like cheddar or Swiss. "There's a chance these soft cheeses could contain listeria, a bacteria that would otherwise get killed during pasteurization. This infection can lead to miscarriage or preterm delivery," says Karyn Morse, MD, an ob-gyn at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Small-batch artisan cheeses (even harmless-sounding ones, like cheddar) are also often unpasteurized.
Bottom line: Check the ingredient list for the word "pasteurized" or opt for cooked cheese instead. You don't have to ban all cheese from your diet during pregnancy -- whether it's soft or hard, it's safe to eat as long as the ingredient list says "pasteurized milk." (Remember to check salad dressings that contain cheese too.) The good news is, many of the soft cheeses you find in a typical grocery store are pasteurized now, says Julie Redfern, RD, a senior nutritionist with the ob-gyn department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. If you're out at a restaurant and aren't sure, ask your server to check, or pick a dish that's made with cooked cheese, like chicken parm. "Even if it's unpasteurized, if the cheese is heated until it's melted or bubbly, then it's safe," says Redfern.
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