It’s frustrating to look into the refrigerator and see your favorite chunk of cheese with a layer of mold growing on it. You may be tempted to cut off the moldy area and eat the cheese anyway to avoid wasting it. Are you putting your health at risk when you do this? Is it safe to eat moldy cheese?
Eating Moldy Cheese: What Causes Mold to Grow in the First Place?
Mold grows on cheese when it’s exposed to air. Mold consists of tiny fungi that grow on moist, organic surfaces such as a piece of cheese left partially unwrapped in the refrigerator. Because cheese is relatively high in fat and other nutrients, it provides a good source of nutrition for the fungi, allowing them to comfortably feed and thrive. Because mold fungi like moist surfaces they’re more likely to grow on cheeses that have a higher moisture content, particularly soft and shredded ones, and will grow more slowly on hard cheeses. Once the package is opened and the cheese is exposed to air, the cheese becomes susceptible to mold formation.
If You Eat Moldy Cheese, Is It Harmful?
There are actually hundreds of types of mold fungi, most of which are completely harmless. One type of mold even produces the antibiotic penicillin. Unfortunately, not every mold that grows on cheese is harmless. Some types of mold produce toxins known as mycotoxins which can cause ill effects if they enter the body. Since you have no way of knowing whether the mold growing on your chunk of cheese is harmless, eating moldy cheese is an unhealthy practice that should be avoided.
Should Moldy Cheese Be Completely Discarded?
If have a chunk of moldy cheese you’d like to salvage, you may be able to cut off the affected area before eating it. It’s important to completely cut off the moldy section leaving at least a one inch margin. This should only be done with firm cheeses, never soft cheeses. Soft and shredded cheese should be discarded completely since it would be difficult to entirely remove the moldy areas.
How Can You Avoid Eating Moldy Cheese?
To avoid eating moldy cheese in the future, refrigerate cheese as soon as you bring it out of the supermarket. Mold grows better in warm temperature settings. Always keep cheese completely covered with plastic wrap so it isn’t exposed to air. Eat it as quickly as possible since the more the package is opened and closed, the more likely the cheese is to develop mold.
The bottom line? Don’t put your health at risk by eating moldy cheese. It’s better to discard it and buy a new pack.