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Whenever my cheese gets too old and has a bit of blue/white mold on the side, I'm not sure whether I should throw it completely out or not. Is it safe to eat if I cut off the edge? Should I cut a bit off of all the sides just to be safe?

I'm particularly interested in the answer for cheddar cheese, but answers about other cheese are welcome.

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This is probably on-topic (see discussion here). Std. disclaimers apply: if you get sick or ruin the flavor of a romantic dinner causing your SO to leave you, blame yourself for taking advice found on the 'Net... –  Shog9 Jul 16 '10 at 21:19
    
Thanks for the note. I didn't realize it could be considered off-topic since "Food" is in the site title and this is related to whether or not I'll use it while cooking. –  mouche Jul 16 '10 at 21:21
    
and @knives, I agree. The ban on health questions is more about general food healthiness and less about how to get around food storage issues. I'd vote to close if the question said "make me fat" instead of "make me sick". –  Mike Sherov Jul 16 '10 at 22:53
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Authoritative source: fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Molds_On_Food/index.asp –  derobert Feb 7 '12 at 20:09

8 Answers 8

up vote 33 down vote accepted

I think it would depend on the cheese.

  • For a reasonably hard cheese, like cheddar, I have done it, and never gotten sick (your results may vary).
  • If it's pre-grated, then I would not touch it anymore.
  • For a softer cheese, like a brie, I would not risk it.
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Thanks for the comprehensive answer. –  mouche Jul 16 '10 at 23:08
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Regarding #3 - that is, ignoring the fact that the outside of brie is by definition mouldy... :-) –  ceejayoz Jul 17 '10 at 1:28
    
@ceejayoz - Very true... but what type of mold? The molds that they use to flavor certain cheeses are naturally edible, as well as smelly, whereas the ones that might develop later on aren't necessarily the same type. –  Nick Jul 18 '10 at 19:53
    
Certainly. Just being cheeky. :-) –  ceejayoz Jul 18 '10 at 20:13
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A friend has told me that white mould on white-mould-covered cheese is identical to the other outside mould, based on his experiments. My conclusion is that you can treat brie-like cheese like cheddar in this regard. –  Marcin Oct 11 '10 at 21:32

As Nick said, I wouldn't recommend it for soft cheese... the process of cutting off the mold can push some nasty bacteria into the inside.

I've also never got sick from doing this. Now if you're talking about some piece of cheese that has questionable provenance (been in your student accommodation fridge for 6 months)... well that may be different :)

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+1 for the comment about pushing bacteria into the soft cheese. also, I'm not talking about cheese that's so old it looks like it has a head of hair. :) just stuff that's starting to get blue spots or similar mold signs –  mouche Jul 16 '10 at 21:50
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Mold is not "bacteria"; it's mold. A bacterial infestation on a piece of cheese is probably possible, but I don't think I've ever seen it. –  Pointy Jul 17 '10 at 12:09
    
@Pointy Bacteria can reach dangerous levels without becoming so dense as to form a visible colony on a surface. Bacteria are everywhere and they're busily colonising all sorts of places in the world along with all the microorganisms. Even plants can catch bacterial infections! –  Jonathan Jan 13 '12 at 6:32
    
@Jonathan I'm sure you're right - I'm not sure why I bothered to add that comment, because I really know next to nothing about the microbial world in general :-) –  Pointy Jan 13 '12 at 13:56

Solid blocks of cheese, such as cheddar, will only have the mold on the exterior so cutting it off should be fine. For soft cheeses such as Brie all you need to do is cut far enough back that you're not cutting through the mold itself. Brie is more likely to develop an ammoniated smell before the mold gets too extreme and if this is the case cutting the mold isn't going to help, the cheese has continued to deteriorate on the inside already, simply throw it out.

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The part about Brie cheese is incorrect - by the time mold is visible on the surface of a soft cheese, the entire piece of cheese is likely contaminated throughout the inside as well. Bacteria can grow along with the mold as well. –  Jonathan Jan 13 '12 at 6:27
    
It may not be uniformly dangerous, based on the comments here it seems that some people are able to handle it, but it's not a risk I would personally take :) –  Jonathan Jan 13 '12 at 20:39

Hard cheese, yes, I'm still here.

Soft cheese, no, it travels through the interior of the cheese too quickly.

Also, if it smells odd after cutting the mould off, I'll throw the whole lot away. I don't like to be in doubt about whether my food's going to make me sick or not.

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Harold McGee (yes I know, I quote him a lot) suggests that molds can penetrate into cheese far more than just the surface contamination.

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i buy blue cheese and let it mold. its the same type of mold that is already on it. I also let my brie mold a bit (until it smells) and then eat it. Gives a STRONG pungent flavor. Never tried it with other cheeses like provolone but I figure if I haven't gotten sick after eating blue cheese with extra mold on it or some molded brie.... then I should be fine.

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I decided to just scape off the white spots on sliced cheddar cheese and just ate it. I suppose it would be OK.

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The fact that you made some decision doesn't mean it was a safe one. The question explicitely asks if it is safe. –  rumtscho Nov 10 '13 at 11:31

Eat the mold if you want, I do, and have never been sick from it. Some cheeses such as blue cheese come moldy. I don't eat cheese if it smells like ammonia.

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This is dangerously bad advice. Blue cheese has specific molds in it that are harmless to humans. The sorts of mold that can grow on the exterior of cheese in an uncontrolled environment are not always, and in fact can be quite dangerous to eat. –  daniel Jul 20 '10 at 4:21

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