Unpasteurised cheese can be quite delicious, and many of us enjoy eating it, but is it safe?
Certainly the advice is for pregnant women to avoid unpasteurised soft cheese such as Brie and Camembert in addition to blue soft cheese as these may contain Listeria, the bug that can cause miscarriage, apart from other symptoms. There are about 150 cases of Listeria a year, of which around 20-30 are pregnancy associated. This doesn’t sound like much, but approximately one third of people who contract Listeria die, so it is a serious illness.
The Food Standards Agency says that Listeria costs the country £245 million per year and this seems very high However, most people who contract Listeria have to be hospitalised.
Who is at risk? Vulnerable groups to Listeria are:
- Pregnant women
- People over 60 years old
- Immunosuppressed people (eg those being treated for cancer)
What foods should vulnerable people avoid?
The Food Standards Agency mentions that Listeria monocytogenes has been found in certain foods, so it’s best to avoid them:
chilled ready-to-eat foods:
soft mould-ripened cheeses
cooked sliced meats
If you want to know more information about what foods to avoid when pregnant go to this NHS web-page.
What should the rest of us do?
Top tips to keep safe:
- Follow the use-by date, particularly for the foods listed above which vulnerable groups should avoid.
- Make sure your fridge is operating below 5°C if possible – check with a thermometer. You can get fridge thermometers from us for all sorts of prices, including a wireless digital one that has a display on the outside.
- Cook ready meals till piping hot in the centre – 75 °C (use a probe to confirm the temperature)
- Once opened, use foods within 2 days unless the label says otherwise
- If you do have foods that may be contaminated with Listeria (such as unpasteurised cheese), keep them separate from pasteurised cheese if you have some vulnerable people in your home.