It is safe to eat fontina cheese if it is made with pasteurized milk. But it comes with caveats.
Traditionally, fontina cheese was made in the Aosta Valley, in the Alps since the 12th century. This cheese is still unpasteurized. However, there are many variants of Fontina now produced in Italy as well as around the World, namely “Fontinella”, “Fontal”, and “Fontella”. Some of these are made from pasteurized milk. The Swedish and Danish versions are often found in US grocery stores, and can be distinguished from Aostan Fontina by their red wax rind.
If you are in the US, good news is that USFDA mandates all cheese aged less than 60 days be prepared from pasteurized milk. Cheeses that are aged less than 60 days are typically all soft and semi soft cheeses, while hard cheeses are aged longer. This means that Fontina, Fontal or other derivates of this semi soft cheese available in the US is made from pasteurized milk.
However, there is a risk of this cheese getting contaminated even later despite being pasteurized, being semi-soft and therefore having more moisture content. Therefore, always buy full rounds or individually packed versions rather than pieces from larger rounds that remain open and are susceptible to contamination.
If you are in any country other than US, check the label or ask seller for pasteurization before buying. If you are eating at a restaurant, check with the servers to ensure it is the pasteurized version. To be safe, you can always heat up the cheese to a high temperature (steaming hot) before eating, so as to kill any potential contaminants before eating.
You can also try these other substitutes of fontina cheese in your recipes:
- Provolone – Another semi-hard cheese mainly produced in Italy. It is normally mild in taste, and melts easily thanks to its firm and slightly grainy texture. Read about the safety of provolone during pregnancy here.
- Gruyère – if you are making fondue, this cheese is perfect due to its rich and creamy texture similar to that of Fontina. Sharp and with a touch of hazelnut and butter, this cheese sits well with a wide variety of different meats and vegetables. Find out if Gruyere is safe during pregnancy here.