Parmesan Cheese During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Parmesan cheese during pregnancy can be dangerous if it's not prepared correctly. We'll tell you what to look for when buying it.
Parmesan Cheese During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Last update: 30 April, 2024

It’s wise to investigate the safety of consuming Parmesan cheese during pregnancy. This is especially important because this type of cheese is produced from raw milk, which is linked to certain risks of infections during this stage of life. However, the way this cheese is made can reduce the risk to both mother and baby.

In this article, we’ll provide you with the information you need to clarify whether or not you can safely include Parmesan cheese in your diet during pregnancy. You’ll learn how to identify which options are safe as well as other precautions to take into account with this cheese. Finally, we’ll also tell you about the nutritional benefits it can provide.

Always remember to consult with your obstetrician about the inclusion of certain foods to ensure a healthy menu during pregnancy.

Is Parmesan safe during pregnancy?

Parmesan cheese is safe during pregnancy when consumed under certain conditions. This depends mainly on the milk from which it’s made, which is raw or unpasteurized.

Just the same, the amount of water that remains in Parmesan cheese after processing is very low, which prevents the growth of certain bacteria that could affect the health of the pregnant woman.

However, when cheeses have a high water content and, in addition, aren’t pasteurized, this contributes to the chances of the outbreak of some infectious diseases that can harm both the mother and baby. This group includes fresh “ready-to-eat” cheeses, such as ricotta, mozzarella, Burgos, cheese spreads, and goat cheese, among others.

For this reason, pasteurization is a fundamental process in the production of fresh cheese. Applying heat between 160 and 195 degrees for a few seconds guarantees the destruction of pathogenic bacteria.

Some organizations have reported cases of listeriosis, an infection produced by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. According to a group of experts in the journal Acta Agronomica, this bacterium is resistant and adapts to any condition except low water content in the product. High temperatures and freezing at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit also destroy it.

What type of cheese is Parmesan?

As mentioned above, Parmesan is made from raw milk and undergoes a ripening or maturation process for a minimum of 1 year. During this time, the cheese loses water until it reaches a content of between 26% and 34%. For this reason, it’s classified as a hard, granular cheese.

Listeria monocytogenes, which can grow at different levels of acidity and in the absence of oxygen in foods with high salt concentrations and under refrigeration, wouldn’t be able to grow at the water levels present in Parmesan cheese.

However, health authorities require a minimum of 60 days of maturation for Parmesan cheese to be considered safe against this bacterium and allow it to be marketed. In addition, the label must state that the cheese was made with raw milk but has been ripened for at least two months.

Why protect pregnant women from cheeses contaminated with Listeria?

Pregnant women are in the high-risk group for listeriosis because their immune system is weakened by hormonal changes.

According to information provided by Elika Seguridad Alimentaria, this disease can become serious during pregnancy, as the mother can transmit it to her baby through the placenta, causing lesions, miscarriages, or septicemia at birth, even if the mother has no symptoms of the disease.

Unpasteurized raw milk and soft and semi-soft cheeses made with this type of milk are among the foods at the highest risk of L. monocytogenes contamination.

How to identify if the cheese has been matured properly

If you want to eat Parmesan cheese and you’re pregnant, the best thing to do is to learn how to identify if a cheese has been matured properly. To do so, we invite you to follow the suggestions below.

Product label

  • Check the sodium values of the product.
  • Confirm the classification of the cheese, which should be hard or extra hard.
  • Check the label where the characteristics of the cheese are described.
  • Observe the water content, which should be in the range of 26% to 34%.
  • Check the maturation or ripening time, which should be at least 60 days.
  • Make sure you know the type of milk used in its production, either raw or pasteurized.

Stamp of authenticity in the case of Parmesan cheese

  • Verify the presence of the production date on the label.
  • In the case of Parmesan, look for the stamp printed with the legend “Parmigiano Reggiano.”

Sensory characteristics that reveal maturation

  • For 3-year-old Parmesan, expect a nutmeg or dried grape aroma.
  • Evaluate the aroma, which is strong and long-lasting, varying with ripening time.
  • Observe the texture of the cheese, which should be hard, granular, and suitable for grating.
  • For 2-year-old Parmesan, look for the presence of white crystals, the result of the breakdown of proteins to free amino acids, responsible for the cheese’s strong flavor and odor.

What other precautions should be taken with Parmesan cheese?

In addition to the care against Listeria contamination, there are other measures to be taken into account in the case of Parmesan cheese, which are also related to its production process. During this process, the cheese is immersed in a sea salt solution for 24 days, which significantly increases the concentration of sodium.

Also, as the cheese dries out, the milk fat becomes more concentrated, raising the levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that a 1-ounce serving of cheese provides 335 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of saturated fat, out of a total of 7 grams, along with 20 milligrams of cholesterol. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to overindulge in Parmesan.

A serving of between 30 and 40 grams, 3 to 4 times a week, will be adequate for pregnant women, as long as they have the approval of their obstetrician and nutritionist.

Also, be sure not to consume the rind of the cheese, as it could be contaminated with other raw foods during the cutting or grating of the Parmesan.

Nutritional benefits of Parmesan

According to the USDA, a 30-gram serving of Parmesan can provide a pregnant woman with 10 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, 335 milligrams of calcium, 130 milligrams of phosphorus, 58 micrograms of vitamin A, 18 micrograms of beta-carotene and 5.5 international units of vitamin D. The number of calories is 111.

However, it’s important to be aware of the sodium and saturated fat intake it may provide. Your nutritionist and obstetrician will indicate the appropriate portions according to your stage of pregnancy and your health condition.


Select a Parmesan cheese with a ripening date of at least 60 days. Also, check the label for the production date and water content, which should be between 26% and 34%.

The serving size for a week should be in accordance with the salt intake guidelines provided by your obstetrician and nutritionist. The distinctive strong flavor of Parmesan stands out even with small amounts in any preparation. Gratins or baked recipes that involve the application of heat further ensure the safety of the cheese, especially after handling.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.