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Feb 6, 2013 05:12 AM

Cheese and mold

I hope this isn't totally obvious to everyone else but... other than cheese that is already intentionally infected (I'm thinking Blue/Stilton/Gorgonzola/etc...) is mold safe to simply cut off a cheese or does the cheese need to be tossed? I'm talking about small amounts, not a completely fuzzy and totaly covered piece of cheese that hid in the back of the fridge for a year.

Does this get very complicated in that, a cheddar with mold is safe if the mold is cutoff but a brie should be tossed (for example)?

I've always been worried that any non-intentional mold is dangerous, but perhaps I'm being overly safe when I don't need to be. If there is no definitive answer, I'm good with that and will continue to follow my paranoid ways.

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  1. white and green molds can be safely cut off and the mold discarded (I think the safe distance is 1/2" from the mold)

    Pink or orange mold (bubble-gum pink and Tang orange -- there's no mistaking these two) produce highly toxic byproducts and have very deep "roots" in the host material. Anything with pink or orange goes straight into the garbage, no questions asked; no debate.

    A living Brie is a funny thing -- if you leave it in the fridge a while, the white, bloomy rind will actually grow back across the cut edge. This is a good thing. (blew my mind the first time it happened -- but definitely reinforced the concept of cheese as a living organism!)

    Obviously any smells (like ammonia) that you know aren't supposed to be there suggest a trip to the trashcan, as well. Old brie smells of ammonia, and is a sure sign it won't taste good -- not harmful, just unpleasant.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      What she said, especially the red/orange mold. May be Serratia Marcescens and that is one you do not want to eat.

      1. re: sunshine842

        Regarding mold on cheese
        I grew up in Italy and we always bought cheese by the wheel,
        this was long time ago and we did not have refrigerators.
        To keep the cheese from getting moldy My parents use to wipe the cut face with wine vinegar, and also wrap a towel with some vinegar.
        We returned to this country after the WW2 war, I got married and one day wife told me that the block of mozzarella had mold so she grew it away, I told her to get more cheese and show her what my mom used to do.

        When I buy cheese I take a piece os Saran foil, cover the cut face, then a piece of paper towel doused in vinegar over the plastic film then cover it with a second piece of Saran foil, and slip a rubber band over to keep it in place,
        I have never had to discard cheese anymore.
        In the fridge I have one block 5 Lb mozzarella, 2Lb Asiago, 2 Lb soft fontinella 3 LB. Sharp Chedar and some Gorgonzola that we do not wrap.
        The cheese will not taste like vinegar.
        If anyone remember the corner food store where the owner would serve you, he wore an apron with big pockets and he always had a cloth soaked with vinegar and use it to wipe the counter and another to wipe the butcher block

        1. re: sgbigfive

          My father told me about this vinegar method recently. I've been using it for a few months and have not had any cheese get moldy. It works great!

      2. In general, the softer the cheese, the more you need to be concerned about mold. This is because molds love moisture and spread quickly through soft cheeses. Firm cheeses can also get mold, but it spreads more slowly in them. You should discard fresh cheeses that have become moldy, such as cottage cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, or fresh goat cheese. You should also discard shredded or grated cheese if you see mold in it, regardless of how firm the original cheese was.

        To the the color considerations for identifying dangerous molds outlined by sunshine and Deluca (red/pink/orange) I would add black mold. However, washed rind (stinky) cheeses usually have a reddish or orange rind colonized by a bacterium (Brevibacterium linens) that is perfectly safe and should not be confused with red or orange mold.

        Mold on the rind of a cheese (especially when the rind is sturdy) is usually of less concern than mold in the paste. Indeed, many cheeses have characteristic molds on their rind. Already mentioned are the bloomy rind cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert and some French goat cheeses. Another example would be Garrotxa, a Spanish goat cheese with a powdery mold on its rind. You'd be hard pressed to find a wheel of Garrotxa that doesn't have the mold, which is innocuous.

        1. Thanks for all the feedback, I have a better grasp of my cheese drawer now.

          1. As mold is often associated with being carcinogenic (aflatoxin etc.) - how do these 'dairy molds' relate to that aspect?

            It would seem that one type of toxicity is going to cause digestive problems. etc. but can someone please distinguish between the dangers of dropping dead in a few days from eating 'bad cheese' and doing so in 2-3 decades?

            10 Replies
            1. re: jounipesonen

              Not all molds produce carcinogenic toxins.

              Mold is necessary to make cheese.

              If there were some legitimate link between cheese and illness, it probably would have been discovered some time in the thousands of years that the human race has been eating cheese and other lacto-fermented dairy products.

              White and green (and blue-green) molds do not produce toxic compounds. That's why we've collectively been consuming white and blue-green molds in cheese for somewhere in the neighborhood of 7000 years, with no bad effects.

              Yellow and pink molds DO produce nasty toxins, though -- that's why you don't see bubble-gum pink or day-glo yellow cheeses. Those *will* shorten your lifespan considerably.

              Cheese is considered in many countries to be healthy -- not only do you get a very concentrated source of protein and calcium, but the microorganisms are of the type considered essential flora for a healthy gut. (probiotics, anyone?) Many countries in Europe end the meal with a cheese platter because of the belief that the cheese will aid digestion.

              1. re: sunshine842

                btw - have found Philadelphia will produce a bright red mold.

                1. re: jounipesonen

                  anything will produce a bright red mold if it's not stored correctly and you wait long enough.

                  The Philly didn't produce the bright red mold -- it was the growing medium for the mold spores that were already in your house/kitchen/refrigerator.

                  Toxic molds LOVE soft cheeses (like Philly...) because they're far easier to establish a population on soft (read wet) cheeses than on harder, drier cheeses like Parmesan. That's why you have to pay far closer attention to storage conditions and shelf life.

                  As we talked about briefly above, red molds (the hot-pink/florescent red molds) DO produce toxins that can send you to the hospital.

                  I'll also throw out that Philly is not a mold-formed cheese. It's made with rennet and cultures, but mold is not typically present on the surface of Philadelphia cream cheese, and is not desirable on cream cheese.

              2. re: jounipesonen

                20 or 30 years?
                Here are a few of the Countries where Mold ripened Cheeses are commonly eaten and they are in the top 10% of Life Expectancy statistics
                Austria, Norway, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy,Andorra and Monaco

                1. re: chefj

                  Right - I was wondering WHAT molds MIGHT be carcinogenic. The answer throughout this thread seems to be that at least NOT white/green/blue cheese molds.

                  1. re: jounipesonen

                    any molds that might possibly be carcinogenic (are there any? Honest question) are not molds that are used to produce cheese.

                    Harmful molds produce toxins that will produce far more alarming health issues long before any possible cancer appears.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      "any molds that might possibly be carcinogenic (are there any? Honest question) are not molds that are used to produce cheese."

                      I had assumed that was the case throughout the thread as we've been eating intentionally molded cheese dince Hector was a pup but good to make it explicit

                      "Harmful molds produce toxins that will produce far more alarming health issues long before any possible cancer appears."

                      I don't think one should go that far. Aflatoxin from moldy peanuts, corn, etc. is probably not going to make someone sick in the short term - but WILL too often cause cancer.

                      1. re: jounipesonen

                        but fortunately, none of us are reduced to eating moldy peanuts or corn very often...and if we are, we're hoping to survive long enough that cancer becomes an issue.

                        Harmful molds **that populate cheese** -- like that red one on your Philly cream cheese produce toxins that will sicken you long, long before they ever produce cancer. It's also a red flag that the population of various bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses may have reached toxic levels, as well. If you're lucky, you'll only have to ride the big white bus for a while.


                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Perhaps you are putting molds. usually fungi, and bacteria under the same umbrella, my earlier post notwithstanding.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            But perhaps not. My point was if it's been sitting in the fridge long enough to have spawned a population of bad mold (red/pink/orange/yellow) then it's well within the realms of possibility that it's also picked up a thriving population of bacteria -- listeria, etc.

              3. how long does it take for goat cheese to grow mold

                1 Reply
                1. re: Theanswerman12345678

                  How long is a piece of string?

                  there's no way to answer your question -- there are too many variables.

                  Until you see mold.