Unripened Goat Cheese is Safe to Eat While Pregnant

Unripened Goat Cheese is Safe to Eat While Pregnant

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As part of National Nutrition Month, it would be an oversight to overlook what fears during pregnancy are about food and why. Many of the foods on the no-no / watch out for pregnancy list are on this list due to a food-borne illness called listeriosis caused by the bacteria Listeria. Listeria is a type of bacteria that infects mammals through contaminated food. It is found in soil, water, and some animals. Unlike some other bacteria, Listeria can live in cold environments, such as in a refrigerator. Listeria die during cooking and pasteurization.

Known foods that may contain Listeria bacteria include:

  1.     improperly pasteurized milk
  2.     unpasteurized dairy products (such as raw milk)
  3.     cheeses (soft unripe such as cottage cheese, cream cheese and ricotta; soft cheeses such as queso fresco, queso de crema and queso de puna, feta, brie, camembert)
  4.     ice cream, butter, cream
  5.     raw vegetables
  6.     raw sprouts
  7.     fermented raw meat sausages
  8.     raw and boiled poultry
  9.     meat delicacies
  10.     smoked seafood
  11.     hot dogs are not warmed up
  12.     pate and meat spreads
  13.     cooked, ready-to-eat crustaceans

Now, before you throw away pretty much everything out of the fridge, let's take a closer look at the most common foods that cause listeriosis. The fact that a product is listed does not mean that the risk is equal - some products cause a higher incidence of disease than others. For example, listeriosis due to deli meats (when eaten cold / unheated) is 1591 more annually than soft, unripened cheeses. Another interesting fact: Regular, medium-quality, pasteurized milk is considered a moderate risk for Listeria. All this talk about soft unripe cheese and milk on the list too! The risk factor increases for milk, not because it is more likely to be listeria, but because we tend to consume it more often than soft, unripe cheese, and therefore are at greater risk.
 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the following foods are categorized into the following risk categories:

High risk

  1.     Meat delicacies (unheated)
  2.     Hot dogs (unheated)
  3.     Pate and meat spreads
  4.     Raw / unpasteurized milk
  5.     Smoked seafood
  6.     Cooked, ready-to-eat crustaceans
Moderate risk

  •     High fat / other dairy products
  •     Soft unripe cheese
  •     Pasteurized liquid milk

Low risk

  •     Fresh soft cheese
  •     Preheated hot dogs
  •     Canned fish
  •     Raw seafood
  •     Fruits
  •     Dry / semi-dry fermented sausages
  •     Semi-soft cheese
  •     Soft ripe cheese
  •     Vegetables
  •     Gastronomic salads
  •     Ice cream and other frozen dairy products
  •     Melted cheese
  •     Dairy products
  •     Hard cheese 

Why is listeriosis a problem in pregnancy?
The fact is, anyone - pregnant or not - can get listeriosis. However, pregnancy suppresses the immune system, which can make it difficult to fight it. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), listeriosis is 13 times more common in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women (The Centers for Disease Control says pregnant women are 20 times more likely to develop listeriosis). However, when viewed in perspective, only 17% of the reported cases of listeriosis each year come from pregnant women (American Pregnant Association). The development of listeriosis is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, neonatal infection, and stillbirth or neonatal death (approximately 22%).

What to search
The incubation period for listeriosis can be up to 30 days before you develop symptoms. The symptoms of listeriosis are similar to those of the flu - muscle pain, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Your healthcare provider can confirm or rule out listeriosis with a simple blood test.

Good news
If you think you have been exposed to Listeria or have developed listeriosis, there is treatment available. Early antibiotic treatment can prevent infection and related complications. It is important to let your doctor or midwife know if you have or think you have been exposed to listeria. They can help you choose the best course of treatment. Dr. Jeffrey L. Ecker, chair of the ACOG Obstetric Practice Committee and author of the Listeria Committee report, helped allay fears by saying, “Fortunately, most women who are exposed will not develop a Listeria infection, and in many cases, all that is needed is "This is close observation of fever or other signs and symptoms."

Of course, the best treatment is prevention. Now that you know a little more about the level of risk associated with different types of products, you can form an informed opinion and decide what to look for. And know that in some cases you don't need to completely avoid it.

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