Being pregnant at holiday parties is frustrating at best. Not only are you advised to avoid drinking, but you also have to be careful around the buffet, dodging some deli meats and even denying yourself soft cheeses like Camembert and Brie.
The worry with soft cheeses is that they are the ideal breeding ground for listeria, the bacteria that causes listeriosis. It can get into the cheese through unpasteurized milk or during the packaging process.
And because pregnancy suppresses your immune system, pregnant women are more likely to get listeriosis after eating something containing listeria. In healthy people, listeriosis will come with flu-like symptoms, like vomiting or a fever. But if you’re pregnant, it can be dangerous to baby, even causing miscarriage or stillbirth. So Health Canada recommends against eating any soft cheese while pregnant.
Fortunately, there is a solution for those moms who just can’t stop thinking about Brie: cook it. “Soft cheese that has been fully cooked—think piping hot—is safe to consume,” says Lesley Langille, a registered dietitian at the Centre for Family Nutrition in Calgary. That’s because any lingering listeria will be killed once the temperature surpasses 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degress Fahrenheit. The safest option, she says, is to choose a soft cheese that’s made from pasteurized milk, then cook it until it’s steaming hot and melted all the way through. But, she says, blue cheese is still off limits.
Langille says she loves baked Brie or goat cheese on pizza. If you’re putting together a festive buffet, try a Brie with cranberries and maple syrup on top, baked at 350F. Or go truly decadent, and deep-fry Camembert by coating bite-sized pieces of the cheese in breadcrumbs and cooking it in hot oil. Consider it a consolation prize for skipping all the mulled wine.