Everywhere you look, supermarkets are bringing out Brie-filled extravaganzas and Instagram is awash with delicious recipes featuring the gooiest cheeses.
Then there’s the mouthwatering thought of that rosemary and honey-coated baked Camembert with crusty bread that you won’t get to dip into.
Well, it turns out that you can have your mould-ripened soft cheese and eat it – as long as you do one crucial thing first.
How to safely eat cheese this Christmas
“Festive favourite Camembert is safe to eat, but only when it’s piping hot and bubbling,” the team at My Expert Midwife, which is run by – yes, you guessed it – midwives, told HuffPost UK.
This is because the heat kills Listeria, the harmful bacteria which can prove dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), cooking at temperatures higher than 65C kills the bacteria. But recipes typically recommend baking Camembert for 20 minutes at higher temperatures (think 200C or 180C fan).
The My Expert Midwife team added that it’s important to avoid anything that’s been heated then left out to cool – which is basically your excuse to skip the queue and dip in straight away at the family gathering.
NHS guidance also echoes this. According to an advice sheet from the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, mould-ripened soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are “only safe to eat in pregnancy if they’ve been cooked”.
It advises pregnant women to steer clear of soft blue-veined cheeses such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort – unless they’ve also been cooked.
As for the rest of the cheese board, hard cheeses made from pasteurised milk should be safe to eat in pregnancy.
Other types of soft cheese are OK to eat provided they’re made from pasteurised milk – so the thumbs up has been given to cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, paneer, ricotta, goats’ cheese, halloumi and mozzarella.
What else can I scoff?
Research has shown that it’s safe to eat all nuts in pregnancy as long as you don’t have a nut allergy yourself. In fact, several studies show that pregnant women who eat nuts or peanuts several times a week are much less likely to have children with a nut allergy.
Furthermore, women who consume peanuts at least once a week have been shown to have a 20-25% decreased chance of their child being diagnosed with asthma at 18 months.
The team at My Expert Midwife said it’s best to avoid cold cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, chorizo and pepperoni, as these may contain toxoplasmosis.
But well-cooked cold and pre-packed meats such as ham, beef, chicken and turkey are all safe to eat and are packed with protein which is necessary for cell growth, they added.
Most hen eggs in the UK are safe to eat if they are Lion Code stamped as this means they’re unlikely to contain a bacterial called salmonella, said the midwife-led team. If you have Lion-stamped eggs, you should be fine to eat them raw or partially cooked – and NHS advice echoes this.
But any eggs that aren’t Lion-stamped should be treated with caution, as the experts explain: it’s “best to avoid products that contain raw or undercooked eggs such as tiramisu and homemade mayonnaise”.