Ever dug into the back of your fridge for something, in particular, only to discover a small fuzzy block somewhat resembling a pet you may have had as a child is lurking behind forgotten bowls of leftovers? Here are few guidelines for determining whether to chuck moldy cheese or munch it, safely.
Moldy Cheese – Soft vs Hard Cheese
Any type of soft cheese that sprouts mold should be immediately discarded. Soft cheeses include cream cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese. In addition to mold, dangerous bacteria such as brucella, E.coli, listeria, and salmonella can grow.
Also, in soft cheese, the mold grows root threads that can spread throughout the cheese. It is also Not Safe to consume any types of cheese that have been crumbled, shredded or sliced.
Generally speaking in harder cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack, the mold isn’t able to penetrate deeply within the cheese. Cut a full inch away (above and below any moldy surface of the cheese).
Be sure you aren’t cross-contaminating the cheese by slicing through the mold with your knife.
Some types of mold are actually used to make various types of cheese (such as Brie), but if you’re unsure of the type of cheese you have or the safety, please just throw it away.
While we always advocate saving money, taking chances with your health is NOT worth the risk.
Type of cheese
Discard — do not eat
OK to eat after mold is removed
Any cheese that is shredded, crumbled or sliced
Heat and Mold
You may find yourself tempted to heat the moldy cheese in order to kill the mold and salvage the cheese you’ve purchased. While most molds cannot survive at temperatures above 140 degrees Farenheit, the toxins that are produced by the molds CAN survive at those temperatures, which means that while the mold itself will be dead, the toxins created by them will be very much alive and potent and can render you severely ill should you decide to consume them
© Can Stock Photo / horatio
It’s easy for things to get lost in your fridge. So, when you come across cheese that’s been hanging out for a while, there’s a solid chance it could have grown mold.
That’s where the mental dilemma comes in: Do you really have to chuck the whole thing? Can you cut off the moldy part and eat the rest? And how bad is it to eat cheese with mold on it, anyway? Before you try to eat around the problem, there are a few things you should know about moldy cheese first.
What is mold, exactly?
Mold is a type of microscopic fungus that thrives in moist areas, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s unclear exactly how many different types of mold there are, but there may be 300,000 or more.
Most molds are threadlike, multi-celled organisms that are transported by water, air, or insects, the USDA says. Many have a body that consist of root threads that invade the food it lives on, a stalk that rises above the food, and spores that form at the ends of the stalks.
Foods that are moldy can also have invisible, harmful bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli growing along with them, says Darin Detwiler, Ph.D., director of the Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program at Northeastern University and author of Food Safety: Past, Present, and Predictions.
Keep in mind that you can’t necessarily see all of the mold that’s infected your cheese (or any other food). “Think of mold as a weed,” says Susan Whittier, Ph.D., director of the clinical microbiology service at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. “Even though you pull it out, it still has roots and it’s just going to grow back.”
The type of food matters here, she says. Mold may be more likely to spread widely in soft foods, ruining even the parts that look OK, while it may be more localized in dense, hard foods, like a Parmesan cheese.
Why can mold be harmful?
Again, there is a wide range of molds out there. Some will do nothing, while others can make you really sick. Certain molds can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems, the USDA says. And some molds, with the right conditions, can produce something called “mycotoxins,” that is, poisonous substances that can make you sick and even kill you.
How does cheese get moldy?
Some cheeses are meant to be moldy, and it’s OK to eat those molds, says Jane Ziegler, D.C.N., R.D., L.D.N., associate professor and director of the Department of Clinical and Preventive Nutrition Sciences at Rutgers University. “Blue veined cheese—Roquefort, blue, Gorgonzola, and Stilton—are formed by the introduction of Penicillium roqueforti spores,” she explains. “Brie and Camembert have white surface molds. Other cheeses may have an internal and a surface mold. These cheeses are safe to eat.”
But mold spores can also latch onto your cheese through the air or water, where they can grow. “When moisture exists on any food, ventilation allows for exposure to spores, which can collect and grow on the food’s surface,” Detwiler says. “Mostly these are invisible to the naked eye, but when one can see mold, strong roots have already grown.
What can happen if you eat moldy cheese?
There’s a wide range here and a lot depends on the type of mold and whether it’s harboring bacteria—things you really can’t tell simply by eyeballing it. Detwiler breaks down possible outcomes this way:
- Best-case scenario: Nothing. It could taste bad or you might get an upset stomach.
- In-between scenario: You could have a moderate allergic reaction, contract a foodborne illness, or have respiratory issues.
- Worst-case scenario: You could be hospitalized, put on dialysis, or even die. This is more of a risk in people who are immunocompromised, Detwiler says.
“To be safe, it is better to toss the cheese, especially when there are children and individuals at high-risk in the household,” Ziegler says.
That’s especially true when you’re dealing with a soft cheese, shredded cheese, or sliced cheese. “Because soft cheeses have a high moisture content, they can be contaminated well beyond the surface of the moldy area,” Ziegler says.
If your cheese is hard or semi-soft, like cheddar, Parmesan, or Swiss, Detwiler says you might be OK to cut off the moldy part and eat the rest of the cheese. “Cut off at least one inch around and below the moldy spot,” he says. “Be sure to keep the knife out of the mold, so it doesn’t contaminate other parts of the cheese.”
The best way to store your cheese safely
The USDA specifically recommends cleaning the inside of your fridge every few months with either baking soda dissolved in water or a bleach solution to try to get rid of mold spores that could be lurking in there.
You’ll also want to keep your cheese covered in plastic wrap, and make sure you don’t leave it out of the fridge for more than two hours at a time, the USDA says. If you want to be really next-level about your cheese storage, you can try this tip from Detwiler: Wrap a hard or soft cheese in a new piece of parchment or waxed paper after each use to keep it fresh. “These breathable materials prevent mold-causing moisture from collecting on the surface without drying it out,” he says.
Bottom line: If you have moldy cheese and you’re not sure what kind it is or what to do, it’s really best to pitch it. If in doubt, throw it out.
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Korin MillerKorin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.
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Can You Eat Moldy Cheese?
Cheese is a delicious, popular dairy product. Yet, if you’ve ever noticed fuzzy spots on your cheese, you may wonder whether it’s still safe to eat.
Mold can grow in all types of food, and cheese is no exception.
When mold appears on food, it typically means that you should throw it out. However, that may not always be the case with cheese.
This article explains whether moldy cheese is safe to eat — and how to distinguish the good from the bad.
What is mold?
Molds are a type of fungus that produces spores. They’re transported through air, insects, and water and can be found everywhere in the environment, including your refrigerator — though they grow best in warm, moist conditions (1).
Mold is a sign of spoilage in most foods. It tends to be fuzzy and green, white, black, blue, or grey.
When it starts growing, it’s usually visible on the food’s surface — though its roots can penetrate deeply. It changes the food’s appearance and smell, producing a sour or “off” odor (1).
Although molds are generally dangerous to eat, some types are used in cheesemaking to develop flavor and texture. These kinds are perfectly safe to consume.
Mold is a fungus that’s characterized by fuzzy, off-color spores. Though it’s normally a sign of spoilage when it grows on food, some types are used to produce certain cheeses.
Which cheeses are made with mold?
Cheese is made by curdling dairy milk using an enzyme known as rennet, then draining off the liquid. The curds that are left behind are salted and aged.
Differences in cheeses’ taste, texture, and appearance depend on the type of milk, bacteria present, length of aging, and processing methods. In fact, particular kinds of cheese require mold during their production.
The most common types of mold used to grow cheese are Penicillium (P.) roqueforti, P.glaucum, and P.candidum. These molds help develop unique flavors and textures by eating the proteins and sugars in the milk, resulting in chemical changes (1, 2, ).
For instance, mold is what creates the distinct bluish veins in blue cheese. It’s also what gives Brie its thick outer rind and soft, creamy interior (2).
Mold-grown cheeses include (1, 2):
- Blue cheeses: Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and other blue varieties
- Soft-ripened cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Humboldt Fog, and St. André
While soft-ripened cheeses are made by mixing mold into the milk during processing, blue cheeses generally have spores injected into the curds themselves (1).
Particular cheeses require molds to mature and develop their unique flavors. These include blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, as well as soft-ripened kinds like Brie.
Is moldy cheese safe to eat?
Mold on cheese isn’t always an indicator of spoilage.
The molds used to produce certain varieties are different than the ones that sprout on your old cheese and bread.
Those used to manufacture cheese are safe to eat. They’re characterized by blue veins inside the cheese or a thick, white rind on the outside — whereas typical mold is a fuzzy growth that varies in color from white to green (1).
Besides appearance, odor can also indicate mold. Yet, because some cheese is naturally stinky, it’s best to smell it after purchasing to establish a baseline. This way, you can evaluate its freshness moving forward.
Keep in mind that dangerous spores can also occur on mold-grown cheeses. They’re similar in appearance to those that grow on other foods.
When to throw out moldy cheese
If you spot mold on your cheese, you don’t necessarily have to throw it out.
It’s rare for spores to spread far beyond the surface of hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, Colby, Swiss, and Cheddar. This means that the rest of the product is likely safe to eat. To salvage it, trim at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) around and below the mold (1, 4).
However, this technique doesn’t apply to soft cheeses or shredded, crumbled, or sliced varieties.
Any signs of mold on these kinds, which include cream cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta, mean that it should be thrown out at once — as the spores can easily contaminate the entire product (4).
While mold is used to produce blue and soft-ripened cheeses, it’s a sign of spoilage on other varieties. Soft cheeses should be thrown out if spores appear, while hard ones can be salvaged by cutting around the molded area.
Dangers of eating moldy cheese
Molds can carry harmful bacteria, including E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Brucella, all of which can cause food poisoning (, ).
The symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. In severe cases, it may lead to death.
Dangerous molds can also produce mycotoxins, the effects of which range from acute food poisoning to immune deficiency and even cancer. In particular, the carcinogen aflatoxin has been shown to increase your risk of liver cancer (1, , , , , ).
The best way to minimize your risk of mycotoxin exposure is to avoid eating moldy food and practice safe food storage (, ).
Harmful mold can carry bacteria and mycotoxins that may cause food poisoning, immune deficiency, and even cancer.
How to properly store cheese
Exercising proper storing techniques can help prevent cheese from spoiling.
When selecting regular cheese, make sure it doesn’t have any cracks or mold growth. The texture should be smooth without any hardened or yellowed spots (4).
When purchasing mold-grown cheeses, keep an eye out for any fuzzy, off-color spots. Treat the blue-veined areas as a baseline to evaluate whether any unusual colors or textures appear.
You should refrigerate your cheese at 34–38°F (1–3°C). Wrapping your cheese tightly in plastic wrap can also help prevent mold spores (4).
Mold growth can be prevented through proper cheese storage. Wrap it in plastic wrap and make sure your refrigerator temperature is 34–38°F (1–3°C).
The bottom line
Cheese is a unique food in that some types are made with mold — a fungus that’s normally best to avoid.
Still, it’s important to know which types to eat, as moldy cheese can still be dangerous.
Blue and soft-ripened cheeses are grown with specific molds and safe to eat. However, if mold appears on soft, shredded, sliced, or crumbled varieties, you should discard them immediately.
Meanwhile, hard cheeses like Parmesan, Swiss, and Cheddar can be salvaged by cutting away the molded area.
As mold can cause food poisoning and other adverse health effects, you should always exercise caution and inspect your cheese thoroughly prior to eating it.
Mold and cheese can be a very tricky thing to navigate. Especially since there are moldy cheeses that you can buy. So what about shredded cheese that has a bit of mold to it? Is it safe to eat? Let's find out!
On paper, it makes a lot of sense: if molds are great with cheese, why not have any sort of cheese that forms mold? Ok, maybe it doesn't make sense for everybody, but it's just one of those weird things that I thought up in my mind with faulty logic. I'm not afraid to admit that I am wrong sometimes. Maybe even often. But I am very willing to learn and course-correct and that is my wish and hope for everybody else.
So, if we take already lovely blue & moldy cheese out of the equation, what should we do with all of the other cheeses? Well, the idea here is that there are many types of food mold out there, and not all of them are safe to eat or give your cheese a pleasant flavor. And they're definitely not made in specialized caves.
Hard cheese is fine
The rule of thumb is this: when it comes to hard cheeses, it's ok and perfectly safe to remove the mold-affected part (and about an inch or so around that), make sure there is nothing left that could hurt you and then you're fine. The explanation is that mold has a visible part (the kind of creepy and fluffy and dark part you can see with your naked eye), but it also has an invisible part that can be spread to the other parts of the cheese. Because hard cheeses have a very dense texture, they are not affected by this. The mold is mostly where you see it.
For hard and semi-hard cheeses, you can cut the moldy part without worrying about your health.
Semi-hard cheeses are also fine to cut around the 'infected' part. So your block of Cheddar and Camembert can still be saved if you operate!
This means that the types of cheese which are affected are softer, spongier varieties and shredded cheese. So how do you deal with all that?
The lifespan of shredded cheese
Soft and shredded cheese is unfortunately affected by the invisible mold, that means that it's lifespan isn't visible to the naked eye. How long does it keep? Well, it lasts for about 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator and then it's done. You can throw it out. So please don't let it go bad and have it as soon as possible.
It's not just shredded Cheddar that is affected by mold. It's any softer type of cheese, like cottage, ricotta. It's also any kind of cheese that can be crumbled or you buy it ready-sliced, like grated parmesan. That doesn't keep for more than a week either. And you can't remove just the moldy part either. You have to throw it out completely.
The good news is that you can use shredded cheese as a topping for so many oven-based dishes and casseroles. And it will melt on top of your food and then be just the right bit of crunchy and creamy.
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Ruxandra GrecuView posts by Ruxandra Grecu
I’m a pop culture nerd who thinks too much about fried bacon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and life, the Universe and everything. I love food and sometimes you can see that on my hips, but I don't care that much about that.
What I do care more about is trying to eat healthier, even though I admit that I like to indulge in my food fantasies. I’m addicted to puns, so forgive me for that when you read my articles. I now know too much about nutrition to be fun to hang out with. So long and thanks for all the fish-based omega-3 fatty acids.
Mold shredded cheese
Does Baking at High Temperatures Kill Mold on Cheese?
Some cheeses, like Gorgonzola, is supposed to have mold, but don't cook with cheeses that are abnormally moldy.
Image Credit: victoriya89/iStock/GettyImages
It can be so tempting to just cut mold off cheese and continue as planned, but it's not always safe. It's frustrating to notice spots of fuzzy mold on some cheese you didn't buy very long ago — tossing it feels like a waste of money and delicious food.
If you see mold on a soft cheese, it’s best to throw it away — side effects of eating bad cheese can be serious. For extremely hard types, like Parmesan, you might be able to cut the mold off the cheese (with a 1-inch margin) and safely eat it.
On very hard cheeses, it may be safe to remove the mold and eat uncontaminated parts. This is not the case with soft, shredded or crumbled cheeses. Baking moldy cheese at high temperatures to kill the mold is not recommended. Feel free to bake intentionally moldy cheeses, like gorgonzola or brie, for tasty and warming recipes — but if your cheese is not meant to be moldy, baking it won't help salvage it.
Saving Moldy Cheeses
Can you cut mold off cheese and proceed to eat the rest? According to the Mayo Clinic, it depends. If you notice mold on any soft or spreadable cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese, you should not eat it.
Mold on cream cheese? Toss it out right away. The same goes for any cheese that is shredded or crumbled. That's because the mold can contaminate more than you can see, spreading through these cheeses.
USDA Food Safety Information explains that you can see three separate parts of mold when you look through a microscope: the root threads that "invade" the food, a stalk rising above the food and spores that form on the ends of those stalks. The spores are what give mold its color. So the visible blue dots of mold on cream cheese are just a fraction of what's really going on.
However, the Mayo Clinic says, it's probably OK to just cut mold off cheeses that are hard or semi-soft like Parmesan, cheddar and Colby cheese. When you do so, cut out any visible mold and at least 1 inch of the cheese around that mold, and take care to keep the knife away from non-contaminated parts of the cheese.
There are a number of cheeses intentionally created using mold, and these guidelines don't apply to them. For example, brie is made using a white mold called Penicillum candidum. There are also blue-veined cheeses, like Gorgonzola and Roquefort, that have mold added to them while they are made. These types of mold are typically not harmful, and add distinctive flavor to the cheeses.
Unfortunately, growing alongside any mold in cheese could be potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli, listeria and salmonella — the types of things that cause food recalls. These make the side effects of eating bad cheese quite serious.
The CDC says that soft cheeses and raw milk cheeses carry an increased risk of food poisoning. Common symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps and fever. Some severe cases of food poisoning can contribute to dehydration. Furthermore, a type of food poisoning caused by listeria can potentially be very harmful to pregnant women — it can contribute to miscarriages, premature birth or even stillbirth.
The bottom line is that the right steps to take all depend on the type of cheese you are dealing with. If you see mold on cream cheese, do not attempt to eat it. Mold on blue cheese is meant to be there. Mold on Parmesan cheese can potentially be removed.
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