Can I Eat Oaxaca Cheese While Pregnant?
To lower the risk of Listeriosis, pregnant women should not eat certain cheeses unless they are made with pasteurized milk. Most Oaxaca cheese is made from pasteurized milk and is therefore considered safe for women to eat while pregnant.
What is Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a serious foodborne illness caused by eating foods that are contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (“Listeria”) bacterium. According to reports from the FDA, Listeria is one of the main causes of death from food poisoning in the United States.
This germ is commonly found in soil, water, decaying vegetation, and the intestinal tract of animals. It can also be found in soft cheeses or other products made from unpasteurized milk and processed foods that become contaminated such as deli meats.
Who is at risk of contracting a Listeria infection?
Nearly all of the people who become gravely ill or die from Listeria infections are newborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.
Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely than the general public to get Listeria infection.
If you are pregnant and Hispanic, your risk is even greater. The FDA reports that pregnant Hispanic women are about 24 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection. Listeria infection in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of the newborn.
Many outbreaks of Listeria have been linked to Mexican soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Mexican soft cheeses include queso fresco, queso blanco, queso cotija, queso panela and queso ranchero.
What kind of cheese is safe for pregnant women?
Pregnant women should only eat cheese, like Oaxaca Cheese, which is made with pasteurized milk, to lower the risk of getting an infection from Listeria or other foodborne germs. Federal regulations in the US require cheesemakers to clearly label the ingredients in their cheese. Pregnant women should specifically look for labels that say “made from pasteurized milk.”
Pregnant women should not eat any “artisanal” cheese and avoid farm-made cheese that may be produced with raw milk.
Where can I find pasteurized Oaxaca Cheese?
It is strongly recommended that if you are going to eat any Oaxacan cheese while pregnant, the cheese should be purchased commercially packaged, from a reputable producer and distributed by major grocery chains. Fortunately, there are many reputable brands of Oaxaca cheese to choose from.
Mexican restaurants serving Oaxaca cheese will certainly be a safe bet as the cheeses they use will be pasteurized. Pregnant women can feel safe indulging their Mexican food cravings !
However, people should also be aware that some cheeses made from pasteurized milk have caused Listeria infections because they were contaminated after the pasteurization process. So, there are no guarantees.