Wait until a child is at least 12 months of age before introducing pasteurized camembert, due to high sodium levels and because soft, mold-ripened cheeses carry a higher risk of foodborne illness. Baking pasteurized camembert to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) significantly reduces the risk of foodborne illness. All babies and young children should avoid consumption of unpasteurized camembert.
The best cheeses for babies younger than 12 months old are pasteurized and low in sodium, including emmentaler, fresh goat cheese, labneh, mascarpone cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, paneer, fresh ricotta cheese, and swiss cheese.
Raw milk cheeses, like traditional unpasteurized camembert, carry the risk of several infections, some of which can be serious and even fatal. Know that pasteurized soft cheeses are not without risk; they can become infected with Listeria if the cheese is produced in facilities with unsanitary conditions or if it is not stored or handled safely. Baking pasteurized camembert to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) reduces the risk of illness.
Camembert is named after the small village in Normandy where the cheese originated. Like brie, camembert is a bloomy rind cheese, meaning yeast blossoms on its surface to create a velvety coating that flavors the creamy interior as the cheese ages. Camembert’s flavor varies, but all kinds have a fungal smell so strong that the cheese was once called the “feet of the God” by French poet Leon-Paul Fargue. Camembert can be made with pasteurized milk, although only cheese made with raw milk from Normandie cows on Normandie farms receives appellation d'origine contrôlée, an official designation to guarantee authenticity. Camembert de Normandie (often shortened to Camembert with a capital C) is tough to find in the United States, where the sale of unpasteurized cheeses is heavily restricted.
Bennett, 13 months, eats baked camembert. Remember that spitting is not necessarily a sign that the child does not like the food, but is generally part of the process of learning how to eat
Sebastián, 15 months, eats baked camembert spread on a thin rice cake
Cooper, 18 months, eats baked camembert spread on toast
It depends. If the cheese is pasteurized, yes. Unpasteurized camembert, however, carries a significantly increased risk of foodborne illness.
Even pasteurized camembert, which is mold-ripened, carries some risk of foodborne illness. Therefore, wait until at least 12 months of age before offering pasteurized camembert. To further reduce the risk of foodborne illness, consider baking pasteurized camembert to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).
Nutritionally, camembert cheese offers plenty of healthy fats and protein. Additionally, it’s a great source of vitamin B12 for nervous system development and provides other B vitamins, including a dash of B6 for energy. Camembert is also a good source of calcium for bone-building and zinc for sensory development. That said, camembert has sodium levels higher than what is healthy for toddlers. When possible, focus on low-sodium cheeses and serve cheeses like pasteurized camembert only on occasion.
When shopping for cheese for young children, look for labels with the following:
Low sodium (less than 100 mg per serving)
Made from whole milk (ideally)
Whether to serve unpasteurized camembert cheese is a personal decision for which you must calculate risk. While unpasteurized/raw cheeses are consumed by children in many parts of the world, eating these cheeses carries a significantly increased risk of foodborne illness, to which babies, young children, children with sickle cell disease, and immunocompromised individuals are more susceptible. Several national and international organizations, including the U.S. American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food & Drug Administration, International Association for Food Protection, and the World Health Organization, strongly advocate for only consuming pasteurized milk and milk products.
It can be. Cheese can be a choking hazard for babies and children as it can be challenging to chew and tends to form a “glob” in the mouth. To reduce the risk of choking, avoid serving cheese in cubes and instead, slice thinly or spread on other foods like bread. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Camembert cheese is often made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies in the United States. Keep in mind that dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products. If baby is allergic to dairy, know that it is an allergy that often disappears with time. Research shows that most children with cow's milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6 and many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow's milk as early as their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.
Milk and other dairy products are a known cause of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES. FPIES is a delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion of the food trigger. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration. Thankfully, like other forms of milk allergy, FPIES that presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time the child has reached 3-5 years of age. While the exact rates of FPIES are unknown, it is believed to be an uncommon condition (although better recognition of the disease has led to increased reporting in recent years).
For those with older children who are lactose intolerant (keep in mind this is uncommon for infants and toddlers), some good news: cheese is often tolerated better than milk because it has lower lactose content than milk and some other dairy products. When a child is lactose-intolerant, it’s important to find calcium-rich foods to consume regularly to ensure a balanced diet and support bone health, such as naturally low-lactose cheeses and dairy products labeled “lactose-free.”
If you suspect baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing milk and cheeses like camembert. Based on baby’s risk factors and history, an allergist may recommend allergy testing, or may instead advise dairy product introduction under medical supervision in the office. If the risk is low, you may be advised to go ahead and introduce milk and milk products in the home setting. As with all common allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
Many cheeses, including camembert, are relatively high in fat and low in fiber, which slows the processes of digestion and pooping. Significant consumption of cheese and milk can be a contributing factor in constipation.
While the flavor of camembert varies widely from one variety to the next, you can count on one thing: a creamy texture that tastes delicious with sweet-tart fruits. Camembert’s nutty, rich flavor tastes great with apple compote, cranberry sauce, poached pears, or stewed rhubarb. Camembert also pairs well with earthy flavors like egg, meat, mushrooms, onion, olive, and potato—so try using camembert in a mushroom frittata or melting it on top of baked potatoes or burgers. Want to keep it simple? You can’t go wrong with baked camembert.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
After baby's first birthday, it is our professional opinion that it is okay to offer small amounts of pasteurized camembert on occasion, though it is not without risk. Consider the risk factors of the child (current health, age) and the source of the cheese. When you are ready to introduce it, you can offer thin slices or bite-sized pieces of pasteurized camembert or spread pasteurized camembert on bread. To further reduce the risk of foodborne illness, bake pasteurized camembert to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). Because camembert is high in sodium, offer other cheeses more regularly and only serve camembert in small amounts and on occasion. Avoid unpasteurized camembert.
Learn more about how much sodium babies should have on our Sodium FAQ page.
1 cheese wheel
1 whole wheel pasteurized camembert cheese
1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) olive oil
½ teaspoon (2 grams) ground paprika or any spice (optional)
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (camembert cheese). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
Remove the cheese wheel from its packaging, then rub it with oil.
If you like, season the cheese wheel with spice.
Bake the cheese until the top is soft, about 15 minutes. It is ready when the top of the wheel feels very soft when gently pressed with a spoon.
While the cheese is baking, prepare sides to serve with it. Apple or pear slices, halved figs, thin rice cakes, and toasted bread taste delicious!
Remove the tray from the oven. Cool the cheese until it is warm, not piping hot, to the touch, about 5 minutes. Cutting open the top of the wheel allows steam to escape and helps the cheese to cool faster.
Eat alongside the child to model how it’s done. For younger toddlers, spread a thin layer of camembert on the side of choice and pass it to the child. For older children, offer a spoon or a slice of toast or fruit and show the child how to scoop the melty cheese themselves.
To Store: Baked camembert is best enjoyed within 2 hours after baking. Any leftovers keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
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