Being pregnant doesn’t mean giving up lots of delicious desserts; it just means you have to be a little more careful when you check ingredients. Today I’m tackling the question of custard, a food that gets queried a lot because it usually contains eggs. Depending on where you are in the world, it may be called custard pudding or custard sauce instead.
Can you eat custard whilst pregnant? Custard is safe to eat in pregnancy if it’s made with pasteurized egg yolks. Most commercially-made custard is pasteurized, but be careful with homemade custard or ‘Creme Anglais’, which may not be suitable for pregnant women.
In this article, I’ll list some popular pasteurized custard brands worldwide, and some bakery products containing custard that you might also come across. If you’re looking for information about frozen custard in pregnancy then read my other article covering this.
Does Custard Have Raw Eggs In It?
Egg custard is traditionally made with raw egg yolks, though not all custards are egg-based. The eggs aren’t heated until cooked as they’re used to thicken the sauce. Therefore egg custard is only safe to eat in pregnancy if the eggs have been pasteurized first, along with other typical ingredients like cream and milk.
Is Custard Always Pasteurized?
Commercially-made egg custard is almost always pasteurized. By ‘commercially made’, I mean custard that has been made in a factory and is store-bought, supermarket or branded custard. This type of custard is safe to eat in pregnancy as it will contain eggs, cream, milk or other ingredients that have all been pasteurized first.
Any branded (even supermarket own-brand) custard should use pasteurized eggs, though you should check the label. If the custard is ‘shelf stable’ (for example, in a tub or can that isn’t in a fridge) then it will be pasteurized as it’s stored at room temperature.
If the custard is ‘fresh custard’, for example, the type you buy ready-made in a tub, in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, then it should contain pasteurized egg and dairy ingredients, but check the label first.
Which Types of Custard Should Pregnant Women Avoid?
Pregnant women should avoid any custard made with unpasteurized egg, due to the risk of contracting salmonella (source: CDC). This usually means that homemade and many restaurant-made fresh custards should be avoided.
Pasteurized egg yolks are a specialist ingredient and aren’t usually available to home cooks, and aren’t always used by restaurants. Therefore unpasteurized eggs are commonly used to thicken the custard sauce in homes and restaurants. The eggs are NOT cooked thoroughly, even if the custard is hot (otherwise, they’d scramble).
Since unpasteurized eggs in custard do not reach a high enough temperature to be safe for pregnant women, avoid this type of custard, and ask about ingredients if you haven’t made it or bought it. This sauce is often called ‘Creme Anglais’ and is made with raw egg, cream, vanilla and milk.
Note that in the UK, “Lion Mark” eggs are considered safe to eat, even if they are unpasteurized. For more on this anomaly, check out my article on eating eggs in pregnancy.
Which Brands of Custard Are Pasteurized?
Ambrosia Devon Custard – this is one of the most popular custard brands in the UK. It’s actually a milk-based product and doesn’t contain eggs. The milk and buttermilk is pasteurized, so you can eat Ambrosia custard in pregnancy safely.
Powdered Custard (e.g. Birds Custard) – this was invented as an eggless recipe from the very beginning. Inventor Alfred Bird created custard powder for his wife, who was allergic to eggs. The modern recipe – and that of all custard powders – is still eggless, and milk is added in preparation. So long as you use pasteurized milk when making it, powdered custard is safe in pregnancy.
Pauls Custard – A popular Australian brand. All Pauls’ products are made with pasteurized milk and cream so it’s safe for pregnant women. Many of the custards don’t contain egg. This is confirmed on their website.
Anchor Custard – Made in New Zealand, Anchor custard doesn’t contain eggs, and the dairy it does contain (milk, cream etc.) is all pasteurized, making Anchor custard safe in pregnancy.
Supermarket Custard – fresh, or in tubs or cans, any commercially-made custard should contain pasteurized ingredients and be safe to eat. Check the label first.
Products Containing Custard And Their Safety In Pregnancy
There are a few common products containing custard that pregnant women often ask about. These are detailed below.
Custard Pie or Custard Tarts – These are safe to eat in pregnancy if they’re baked properly, i.e. the egg is completely set. Sometimes, egg custard tarts are a bit wobbly or runny in the middle, and these should be avoided. You can eat a baked custard tart if the filling is completely set, as this means the eggs have been cooked through. If in doubt, cut the custard pie or tart in half and inspect the very center.
Custard Donuts – Custard is a popular donut filling and the same rules apply about commercial and non-commercial custards. In other words, commercial custard donuts (those mass produced or branded) can be expected to contain pasteurized egg, but check first. As many smaller and independent bakeries make their own custard donuts, always ask first if they use pasteurized egg in their products.
Custard Slices or Custard Squares – similar to donuts, you can expect commercial brands to have used pasteurized eggs, though it’s always a good idea to check the label. Smaller bakeries may use unpasteurized eggs so it’s best to check with each individual establishment about their ingredients, as they vary from place to place.
Custard and Fruit Salad – this is a popular UK dessert. If the custard is powdered or pre-bought, and the fruit is from a tin, then it’s safe to eat in pregnancy. Don’t eat homemade custard or use pre-cut fruit (the type bought fresh and chopped up in containers) as this carries a higher risk of listeria. Tinned fruit is pasteurized so is safe.
Finally, you may wonder: Is there custard in Custard Creams? This popular British biscuit isn’t usually made with custard. Instead, many manufacturers use a buttercream-style spread, flavored with vanilla. It tastes like custard, but it doesn’t have custard in it and doesn’t contain raw eggs. You can eat custard creams when you’re pregnant.
Nutrition: Is Custard Good in Pregnancy?
Custard has some nutrients such as protein and calcium, mostly from its dairy content. The nutrients in custard vary a lot, depending on how it’s made. However, it’s often high in fat (if it’s made with cream) and usually has a high sugar content. For this reason, it’s best to eat it in moderation in pregnancy. You can also get custard with ‘no added sugar’ (look for it on the label), which may be a better option if you’re eating custard when pregnant.
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