Are you a fan of blue cheese? Do you ever wonder if the blue mold on your cheese is safe to eat?
Mold is usually something we try to avoid in our food, but when it comes to certain types of cheese, mold is actually an important part of the flavor and texture.
However, not all molds are created equal, and some can be harmful to your health.
In this article, we’ll explore the world of moldy cheese and answer the question: is blue mold on cheese dangerous?
Let’s dive in and find out.
Is Blue Mold On Cheese Dangerous?
Blue mold on cheese is not necessarily dangerous, but it depends on the type of mold and how it got there.
Blue cheese, such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Camembert, and Brie, is made with a specific type of mold called Penicillium roqueforti. This mold is safe for human consumption and is actually in the same family as the antibiotic Penicillin.
When Penicillium roqueforti comes in contact with cheese, it accelerates processes that create the unique look, texture, and taste we’ve come to associate with blue cheese. The mold produces enzymes that break down the cheese’s proteins and trigger a biochemical event called lipolysis, which gives the cheese its distinct blue look, odd smell, and sharp flavor.
However, if mold appears on soft, shredded, sliced, or crumbled varieties of cheese, you should discard them immediately. Mold can cause food poisoning and other adverse health effects. Hard cheeses like Parmesan, Swiss, and Cheddar can be salvaged by cutting away the molded area.
It’s important to note that not all molds are safe for consumption. Some molds can produce toxins that lead to illness. Moldy foods are also more likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Therefore, it’s crucial to inspect your cheese thoroughly before eating it. If you find mold on a corner of a block of cheese or on the rind of a soft cheese like Brie or Camembert, cut off the moldy part and about an inch surrounding the mold. Be careful to keep the knife from becoming contaminated and touching the mold.
When a semisoft cheese is shredded, crumbled or sliced, the entire bag or container should be thrown out when you find mold. It is never safe to eat moldy soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta. Mold can spread quickly in these cheeses.
The Science Of Moldy Cheese
Moldy cheese is a result of the natural process of cheese ripening. Cheese is made by adding bacteria, enzymes, and other microorganisms to milk. During the aging process, these microorganisms break down the proteins and fats in the cheese, creating new flavors and textures.
Mold is a type of fungus that grows on the surface of cheese during the aging process. The mold spores can come from the air, the environment, or even from the milk used to make the cheese. The growth of mold on cheese is influenced by several factors, including temperature, humidity, and the type of microorganisms present.
The blue mold found on some cheeses is caused by Penicillium roqueforti. This mold grows inside the cheese and creates blue veins that give the cheese its distinctive flavor and appearance. The mold also produces enzymes that break down the proteins in the cheese, resulting in a softer texture.
While moldy cheese may not be harmful in small amounts, it’s important to be cautious when consuming it. Some molds can produce mycotoxins that can cause illness or allergic reactions in some people. Additionally, moldy cheese can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
To reduce the risk of illness from moldy cheese, it’s important to inspect your cheese carefully before eating it. If you find mold on your cheese, cut off at least an inch around and below the mold spot before consuming it. It’s also important to store your cheese properly to prevent mold growth. Cheese should be stored in a cool, dry place and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper to prevent moisture from getting in.
Types Of Mold Found On Cheese
There are many types of mold that can be found on cheese, but not all of them are safe to eat. Some molds can produce toxins that can cause illness, while others are harmless and even beneficial to cheese production.
Blue cheese is made with Penicillium roqueforti, a mold that is safe for consumption and actually in the same family as the antibiotic Penicillin. This mold is responsible for the unique taste, smell, and appearance of blue cheese.
Other types of mold commonly found on cheese include Aspergillus niger, which can produce toxic compounds, and Cladosporium, which can cause allergies in some individuals. However, it’s important to note that most molds found on cheese are harmless and won’t cause any adverse health effects.
When inspecting cheese for mold, it’s important to look for fuzzy or powdery growths in colors such as white, green, black, blue, or grey. Soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are more susceptible to mold growth due to their high moisture content.
If you find mold on a block of cheese or on the rind of a soft cheese like Brie or Camembert, you can salvage it by cutting off the moldy part and about an inch surrounding the mold. However, if mold appears on soft, shredded, sliced, or crumbled varieties of cheese, you should discard them immediately to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Health Risks Associated With Certain Types Of Mold On Cheese
Certain types of mold on cheese can pose health risks if consumed. While blue cheese uses a safe type of mold called Penicillium roqueforti, other molds can produce toxins that lead to illness. For example, the dark black-gray mold Aspergillus niger is quite rare to find on cheese, but if it does appear, it can be harmful.
Moldy foods are also more likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Some types of bacteria that may lead to illness include listeria, brucella, salmonella, and E. coli.
When it comes to different types of cheese, fresh soft cheeses like ricotta, mascarpone, and chèvre should just be discarded if mold appears since the damp environment means that the mold has likely penetrated deep into the cheese and negatively impacted the flavor. Soft cheeses like Brie or Port-Salut should have about a quarter-inch cut away from any surface where mold is visible. Harder, aged cheeses like aged Cheddar or Parmesan can just have the mold scraped away.
It’s important to exercise caution when consuming moldy cheese and to inspect it thoroughly before eating it. Any moldy cheese that smells of ammonia or is both moldy and wet should be discarded immediately. By following these guidelines, you can safely enjoy your favorite types of cheese without risking any adverse health effects.
How To Safely Store And Consume Moldy Cheese
Storing cheese properly and eating it within a reasonable time frame is the best way to prevent cheese from molding. To store cheese, wrap it in special cheese paper or a layer of parchment paper. Label the cheese with the type and the day you bought it. Store it in your crisper drawer, which will have consistent temperature and humidity. If you have a dedicated wine fridge, you can store cheese in there, where the temperature is less cold, which is actually better for the cheese.
If you have moldy cheese, it’s important to handle it carefully to avoid spreading the mold or any bacteria that may be present. Always wash your hands before handling any food, including moldy cheese. Use a clean knife to cut away any moldy parts of hard or semisoft cheese. Be sure to cut at least one inch around and below the moldy spot. If you’re dealing with soft cheese varieties like Brie or Camembert, discard them entirely if they are moldy.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the expiration date of your cheese and consume it within a reasonable amount of time. Don’t leave cheese out at room temperature for too long, as this can encourage mold growth. Instead, store it properly in the refrigerator or freezer to extend its shelf life.