Moldy Cheese: Can Cutting the Edges Make it Safe to Eat?

Is it safe to eat moldy cheese

Consuming moldy cheese, even after cutting off the visible mold, can pose health risks due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria and mycotoxins, which can cause adverse reactions and foodborne illnesses.

Key Facts

  1. Soft cheeses with mold should be discarded: Soft cheeses like cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta should be discarded if they show mold. The mold can penetrate deep into these cheeses, contaminating more than what is visible.
  2. Mold can contaminate shredded, crumbled, and sliced cheeses: For cheeses that are shredded, crumbled, or sliced, the mold can spread throughout the cheese, making it unsafe to eat. Harmful bacteria like listeria, brucella, salmonella, and E. coli can grow alongside the mold.
  3. Hard and semisoft cheeses can be salvaged by cutting off the moldy parts: Hard and semisoft cheeses like cheddar, colby, Parmesan, and Swiss can be made safe to eat by cutting off at least 1 inch around and below the moldy spot. It’s important to keep the knife away from the mold to prevent contamination of other parts of the cheese.
  4. Not all molds pose a risk: Some molds, like those used to make cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, are safe for healthy adults to eat. However, individuals with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, infants, and young children should avoid soft cheeses, cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, and other types of moldy cheeses.

Understanding Mold on Cheese

Mold growth on cheese is a natural and complex process that can occur during cheese production, aging, and storage. It is primarily caused by the presence of fungi, which are microscopic organisms present in the environment. These fungi can find their way onto cheese through various sources, such as airborne spores, equipment, or the aging environment.

Different types of molds can develop on cheese, including both desirable and undesirable varieties. Desirable molds, such as those used in the production of certain types of cheese like blue cheese or Camembert, contribute to the characteristic flavors, textures, and appearances of these cheeses. These molds are carefully selected and introduced during the cheese-making process under controlled conditions.

On the other hand, undesirable molds can also grow on cheese, leading to potential quality issues. These molds can impart off-flavors, produce toxins, and cause visible discoloration or surface irregularities. Mold growth on cheese may vary in color, ranging from white, blue, or green to black. It is important to note that not all molds are harmful, and some cheese varieties, such as aged or surface-ripened cheeses, may have a natural rind or surface mold that is safe to consume.

When encountering mold on cheese, it is crucial to assess its characteristics and make informed decisions regarding its safety. If the mold growth is limited to a small area on the surface of hard or semi-hard cheeses, it can often be safely removed by cutting away a substantial margin around it. However, for soft or crumbly cheeses or if the mold is extensive, it is generally recommended to discard the entire piece to avoid potential health risks.

Safety Precautions

According to the Mayo Clinic, certain molds produce mycotoxins, which are toxic substances that can cause illness if ingested. Therefore, it is important to use caution when eating moldy cheese. While cutting off the visible moldy parts may seem like a solution, it is not always enough to ensure safety. The Mayo Clinic recommends throwing away soft cheeses such as ricotta or chèvre if they show signs of mold. These cheeses have a high moisture content, making it difficult to completely remove the mold.

Harder cheeses, such as aged cheddar or parmesan, have lower moisture levels and a denser texture, making them less susceptible to mold growth. For these cheeses, it is generally considered safe to trim at least one inch around and below the moldy area. This practice helps eliminate potential contamination while preserving the unaffected portions.

Quality and Flavor Considerations

In addition to safety concerns, the presence of mold can significantly affect the flavor and quality of cheese. Even if the moldy portions are removed, the flavor may be altered due to the release of metabolites by the mold. Therefore, it is important to assess the extent of mold growth and use personal judgment when deciding whether to consume the cheese.

Prevention Tips

To prevent cheese from getting moldy in the first place, proper storage is crucial. The Mayo Clinic recommends wrapping cheese in special cheese paper or parchment paper. Labeling the cheese with the date of purchase will help monitor its freshness. Storing cheese in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer provides a consistent temperature and humidity level. If available, a dedicated wine refrigerator can also serve as an ideal storage option for cheese.

Signs of Cheese Spoilage: How to Determine if Cheese is No Longer Safe to Eat

When determining if a cheese is no longer safe to eat, it’s important to look for certain signs that indicate spoilage or the presence of harmful bacteria. Here are some common signs to look for:

  1. Visible mold growth: While some molds on cheese may be safe to eat, others may produce toxins that can cause illness. If you notice extensive mold growth on the surface of the cheese, especially if it appears fuzzy, green, blue, or black, it is generally a sign that the cheese should be discarded.
  2. Off-putting odor: If the cheese emits an unpleasant or sour odor that is significantly different from its usual odor, it may be spoiled. A strong ammonia-like odor or a rancid odor may indicate that the cheese has gone bad.
  3. Unusual texture or consistency: Cheese that has become excessively dry, slimy, or sticky is likely past its prime. Changes in texture, such as a crumbly or lumpy texture in soft cheeses or a rubbery texture in hard cheeses, can also be indicators of spoilage.
  4. Discoloration: Any abnormal discoloration in the cheese, such as dark spots, yellow or brown patches, or a general darkening, may indicate spoilage. Fresh cheese that turns pink or orange may be contaminated with bacteria.
  5. Bitter or sour taste: If the cheese tastes significantly different from its usual flavor profile and has a bitter, sour, or unpleasant taste, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consumption.

It’s important to note that these signs can vary depending on the type of cheese and its aging process. Some cheeses naturally develop a rind or surface mold that is meant to be eaten, while others should remain pristine and mold-free. When in doubt, it’s always safer to throw the cheese away rather than risk potential foodborne illness.

Safe Cheese Storage: Maintaining Quality and Flavor

Proper storage of cheese is critical to maintaining its quality, flavor, and safety. Here are some general safety guidelines for storing cheese:

  1. Temperature: Cheese should be stored at a consistent temperature to prevent spoilage. The ideal temperature range for most cheeses is between 35°F and 45°F (1°C and 7°C). Avoid storing cheese in the warmest part of the refrigerator, such as the door, as temperature fluctuations can accelerate spoilage.
  2. Packaging: To keep cheese fresh and prevent it from drying out, it’s important to store it properly. Most cheeses are best stored in their original packaging, which is designed to allow the cheese to breathe while protecting it from excessive moisture and odors. If the original packaging is not suitable, wrap the cheese tightly in wax or parchment paper, followed by a layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  3. Cheese paper: Consider using special cheese paper, if available. Cheese paper is designed to regulate moisture levels around the cheese while allowing it to breathe. It helps prevent the cheese from drying out or becoming too moist, which can affect its texture and flavor.
  4. Cheese storage containers: Alternatively, you can use cheese storage containers or airtight plastic containers with lids. These containers provide a controlled environment for the cheese, protecting it from moisture and odors. However, make sure the container is clean and dry before placing cheese in it.
  5. Segregation: To avoid cross-contamination and flavor transfer, store different types of cheese separately. Strong-smelling cheeses, such as blue cheese, should be stored in a separate container or wrapped tightly to prevent their aroma from affecting other cheeses.
  6. Labeling: It’s helpful to label cheese with the date of purchase or storage. This allows you to track its freshness and consumption timeline. Use a marker or label to indicate the type of cheese or any special instructions for storage or consumption.
  7. Cheese drawer or crisper: Many refrigerators have a designated cheese drawer or crisper. This area often has a slightly higher humidity level and a more stable temperature, making it an ideal place to store cheese. If your refrigerator doesn’t have a dedicated cheese drawer, choose a cool, low-moisture area for storage.
  8. Shelf life: Different types of cheese have different shelf lives. Fresh cheeses, such as mozzarella or feta, should be consumed within a few days to a week, while aged or hard cheeses can last for several weeks or even months. Check the package of each cheese or consult a cheese expert for recommended storage times.

By following these cheese storage safety guidelines, you can help maintain the quality, flavor, and safety of your cheese for an extended period of time, allowing you to enjoy your cheese to the fullest.

The Bottom line

When it comes to moldy cheese, it is important to prioritize safety while maintaining taste and quality. While some cheeses can be saved by trimming the moldy edges, others should be discarded. It is important to evaluate the type of cheese, the extent of mold growth, and personal judgment before consuming moldy cheese. By understanding the risks and taking the proper precautions, you can continue to enjoy the wonderful world of cheese with confidence.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice. Always consult with a qualified professional or healthcare provider regarding your specific situation and concerns.


Why is it not safe to eat moldy cheese, even after cutting off the visible mold?

Mold can produce harmful mycotoxins, which are toxic substances that can cause adverse reactions and foodborne illnesses. These mycotoxins can spread throughout the cheese, even in areas where mold is not visible.

What are the potential health risks of eating moldy cheese?

Consuming moldy cheese can lead to various health issues, including:

    • Allergic reactions
    • Respiratory problems
    • Digestive issues, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
    • Weakened immune system
    • Increased risk of certain cancers

Can cutting off the moldy parts of cheese make it safe to eat?

No, cutting off the moldy parts of cheese does not guarantee that the remaining cheese is safe to eat. Mold can spread throughout the cheese, even in areas where it is not visible. Additionally, the process of cutting the cheese can release mold spores into the air, which can be inhaled and cause respiratory problems.

What should I do if I accidentally ate moldy cheese?

If you accidentally ate moldy cheese, monitor yourself for any symptoms of foodborne illness, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you experience any adverse reactions, consult a healthcare professional immediately.

How can I prevent mold from growing on cheese?

To prevent mold growth on cheese:

    • Store cheese properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
    • Keep cheese away from moisture and heat.
    • Discard any cheese that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
    • Regularly check cheese for signs of mold growth and discard any cheese that shows signs of mold.

What are some safe ways to use moldy cheese?

There are no safe ways to use moldy cheese. Once cheese has developed mold, it should be discarded to avoid potential health risks.