Are Soft Cheeses Dangerous During Pregnancy?


[INTRO ♪] There’s usually a laundry list of dos and don’ts that people can expect to hear when they’re pregnant. Don’t eat fish, don’t drink caffeinated
beverages— and they don’t always tell you why. One of the most oddly specific-sounding ones is a moratorium on soft cheeses. And there’s actually an extremely good reason for it, although the focus shouldn’t necessarily fall on Camembert. A number of processed foods, including but not limited to soft cheeses, can harbor the infectious bacterium Listeria—and it’s a serious danger to fetuses. Listeria monocytogenes is a common bacterium found in a huge variety of places, including water, soil, raw produce, processed foods—and even feces. It’s actually a pretty uncommon infection in the general population, but one exception is pregnant people, for whom it’s nearly 20 times more common. A lot of changes happen to your body during pregnancy. This includes your immune system, specifically a reduction in cell-mediated immunity. This system includes multiple defense mechanisms that don’t rely on antibodies. Instead it’s mediated by specialized cells. This type of immunity is important for detecting and destroying cells in your body that may be infected with viruses or bacteria. Your antibody-based immunity, on the other hand, makes those antibodies in response to viruses or bacteria in the fluid outside of your cells. But your body shifts away from cell-mediated immunity during pregnancy to allow a tiny human to grow inside of you. This ensures those well-meaning immune cells don’t detect the fetus and treat it like an unwanted intruder. Although Listeria infection is far more common in pregnant people, symptoms tend to be very mild. This is because Listeria is a unique bacterium with a sneaky way of getting around that doesn’t get your antibody-based immune system all riled up. The bacteria basically trick the cells in
your gastrointestinal tract into engulfing them. Once inside a cell, Listeria multiplies and pushes against the membrane, eventually pushing straight through into neighboring cells without spending any time in the outside space. This means your best defense against Listeria is your cell-mediated immunity. So it makes sense that there’s less of a
reaction in a pregnant host. But this sneaky way of spreading also means it can get across the placenta, and this is where it becomes really risky. The human maternal-fetal interface is what nourishes your fetus and protects it from both your immune cells and outside infections. Placental cells have direct contact with maternal blood, so the placenta is very resistant to infections, but not to pathogens like Listeria. And researchers aren’t totally sure why yet. Although Listeria doesn’t usually have much of an impact on the pregnant person, it’s very dangerous to developing fetuses. It can cause premature birth or pregnancy loss as well as brain damage, and is often fatal to fetuses and newborns. We mostly get Listeria infections from contaminated foods, and we can take some steps to limit our exposure to it. Like pasteurization, which eliminates Listeria from dairy products. So although you can get it from a variety of things, unpasteurized cheese is definitely on the no-go list. In some parts of the world, including the
US, it’s actually hard to find unpasteurized cheese. But Listeria has also been found in pasteurized soft cheeses thanks to manufacturing issues. Soft cheese gets a lot of attention when it comes to Listeria risk, but there’s actually a wide range of dairy products, cold meats, and other processed foods that are vulnerable to contamination. Recent outbreaks of Listeria have even been linked to unprocessed foods, like raw sprouts, celery, and melon. Like we said—Listeria is super common, and it’s also behind the prohibition of stuff like hot dogs and deli meats for pregnant people. So to be on the safe side, it might be a good idea to just avoid the deli counter for the duration of pregnancy! Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to our patrons for supporting this episode. Patrons have a chance at getting their questions answered in episodes like this one. So if there’s something you’re itching to know, consider becoming a patron at patreon.com/scishow. [OUTRO ♪]

100 thoughts on “Are Soft Cheeses Dangerous During Pregnancy?”

  1. The male uterus has an outer layer referred to as the charcuterus that actually absorbs excess nitrites and Listerium and converts them to aged bourbon, infusing the fetus with more oak-ey notes.

  2. I really appreciate knowing the WHY of at least one of the many "shoulds" of pregnancy. At this point I assume that a lot of it is bunk, but ultimately I expect the risk/reward ratio means the many many rules are (roughly) followed.

  3. For those complaining about the term "pregnant people"

    Maybe you should just call it "pregnants" instead. lol

  4. Read all 165 comments…. up till this point.
    75% of the comments are about pregnant people.
    10% of those like it. 65% hate it. Cuz its way too PC. Pandering to LGBT at best. And just too inaccurate to say "people" have babies. Women do.
    Even if you're a trans male. You're a genetic female.
    Unless Y chromosome humans also have a eggs to be fertilized be a XX human. 🙄

  5. pro tip: "what things are harmful during a pregnancy" is an innocent google search as well as an effective method for finding something,, or a combination of things,, that would do the trick

  6. As a person that identifies as genderflux, I appreciate you saying ‘people’ instead of ‘women’ when referring to pregnancy – it’s nice that you’re inclusive of trans and non-binary folk, and it doesn’t hurt cis people to be inclusive with your language about traditionally gendered topics.

  7. Has there ever been a more ridiculous example of mindless, slavish devotion to political correctness than the text of this video which invariably used a gender-neutral term when referring to a pregnant human? They are all females, Lyndsay. You should have caught that, Alexa, and so should you, Stefan.

  8. Could you do a show about hemp plastics? I really want to learn more about it and I can’t find a lot of information about if it’s being used, where I can find it or if it is a better option I wanna look after my planet but I need more information thank you!!

  9. Pregnant people. What’s next. A video about the male uterus? Also “maternal-fetal interface”? You meant “maternal/paternal-fetal interface”, right?

  10. I'm concerned with the term 'pregnant people' … even if we gender bend to the extreme? Women are the only ones that can get pregnant. Even transgender people can only get pregnant when they are full on women. So, is it just me, that I don't get it?? I feel like it takes away from it all by pretending that 'people' can get pregnant, cause they can't. Arnold Swarznegger, not withstanding, of course. (Cause I love that film)

  11. So people who choose to produce flagellated sex cells with their gonads can make people who choose to produce oocytes with their gonads pregnant. That's too specific, might offend someone…

    People who own viable gametocytes can pregnant each other. Mix and match.
    Also, Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

  12. Unfortunately it seems this video is just regurgitating myths. They kind of even admit it – "sure, pasteurization kills all the bacteria and makes it safe, but better avoid it anyway, just because" – not good for a science channel. With the exception of alcohol and tobacco, most of the things pregnant women are "supposed" to avoid pose little, if any danger. Other things that are actually much more dangerous get virtually no attention. Did you know you are much more likely to get a dangerous infection from a hamburger than from pasteurized cheese? But which one do people fuss over?

    For actual data and evidence, read "Debunking the Bump" by Daphne Adler.

  13. Seeing as a Dutch supermarket chain (Jumbo) just had an incident involving listeria this week, this seems oddly coincidental

  14. I love how Scishow is always inclusive and respectful to the trans-community no matter how much cis people get triggered about it 💚

  15. "Pregnant people"??? What the hell is that? Don't you mean pregnant WOMEN? When did men start having wombs, Fallopian tubes, and eggs?

  16. Its very obvious when you say "pregnant people" instead of pregnant women. Its like saying happy holidays. No you mean christmas.

  17. *reads comments*

    Oh, indeed! I, too, am quite OFFENDED that they would dare to include WOMEN as PEOPLE!!!

    /sarcasm

    *smh*

    Really? You're being sensitive about the word "people"? Inclusive terms don't hurt anyone and you don't need to incorrect things that are completely accurate.

  18. Fetuses are so entitled. Only one cup of coffee a day, no alcohol, and now this? At least I can still eat aged cheddar and sweets. But otherwise it sounds like a miserable time (along with ruining my body). Maybe I’ll make enough money to pay a surrogate.

  19. I wish you were more specific than "cell-mediated immunity". I understand that it's enough for most people but it would be great if you specified cell populations, like Th1 or CD8+. Of course, most people who understand these terms know what type is involved in fighting Listeria 🙂

  20. A little while ago before the summer here in New England there was an issue with listeria in the avocados here. I don’t remember how bad the outbreak was but my psychology teacher got food poisoning from the batch of avocados he had bought and was out sick for awhile.

  21. Jesus…. so, if you’re a pregnant pescatarian, there’s literally nothing that’s guaranteed to be safe….??? What the hell are you supposed to fuel yourself with?

  22. Maybe just dont consume the secretions of a raped animal of which the intended purpose is to feed their young. Crazy concept.

  23. All food is prune to infection of some sorts it is just about weak food safety standards in the US. If it really bothers you just melt the cheese or pasterilize the milk yourself since you don't have government to ensure you that… Because what then – are you gonna stop eating everything that might cause salmonella or ecola poisoning and so on? The advice from this video might scare people from getting nutrients they need. I think that it is unhelpful.

  24. Raw milk cheese in the US has to be fermented for at least 60 days so the salt, enzymes, and acid in the cheese can milk the harmful bacteria. Try it sometime. It tastes amazing!

  25. When we were expecting our first child I asked the midwife why pregnant women were not supposed to eat nuts (I'm in the UK and I'm not sure if this advice has changed) She just replied "Do you want your baby to die?! Do you?"
    I took this to mean that she didn't know.

  26. Pregnant people… I forgive you if you say pregnant women. It’s ok. I don’t meet too many pregnant men, except in movies.

  27. Funny how I watched this video today, and then I see in the newspaper, that a company was recalling their fish products as they had found Listeria in a fish on the date they are recalling products for.

  28. ok i agree with all that, but I would like to know what he actual risks are of contracting this disease. I live in europe, i drink raw milk, i eat raw chees, and I eat raw meat. Raw milk is even sold in the grocery store next to the pasturized. Due to better hygene in produciton and animal raising, these risks are just low. We are not all getting contaminated with listeria and we do not have frequent or regular outbreaks. So a broader discussion of contamination risks needs to be had! in fact where i live people cannot understand why america is soooooooooo freaked out about raw milk. They just don't get it.

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