Specific molds are necessary for some cheeses to develop their characteristic flavor, and they are intentionally part of the cheese-making process. Other cheeses will develop mold, even though you keep them wrapped and in the refrigerator. Mold may not be noticeable until you unwrap the cheese, and you detect a foul odor. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises against eating cheese mold that is not part of the manufacturing process.
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Cause of Mold
Cheese molds are the result of various types of microorganisms growing in the cheese. Clemson University explains that molds are fungi that are incorporated throughout cheese by root-like structures called hyphae. Mold contaminants may spread as airborne spores, or they may be introduced on utensils used for slicing or shredding, or from general handling.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, mold is introduced as part of the cheese-making process for some cheeses. For example, Roquefort, gorgonzola, Stilton and bleu cheeses require Penicillium roqueforti spores to create the signature blue-veined mold that gives them flavor. White surface mold is normal on Brie and Camembert. Molds in these cheeses are safe to eat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Mold requires air to grow, and vacuum-packed cheese in its original sealed package should not exhibit mold growth, unless it is an intentional part of the process. Once the package has been opened, or once a wheel of unripened cheese has been cut, wrap the unused portion tightly in plastic film wrap, removing as much trapped air as possible. Clemson University recommends double-wrapping the cheese, placing it in a sealed container, and storing it in the refrigerator at a temperature between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mold that is not part of the manufacturing process can be trimmed away from hard cheese such as cheddar, and the remaining cheese can be eaten. Cut around the mold one inch larger than visible mold and dispose of it. Keep the knife out of the mold. Other cheeses should be discarded if they become moldy, including cottage cheese, cream cheese, Neufchatel, feta, mozzarella, Muenster, Monterey Jack and ricotta, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Some people need to avoid all cheese mold for health reasons. If you have mold allergies, you should not eat any cheese with mold, even if it is part of the cheese-making process. Those on a candida, or yeast-free, diet should also avoid eating any cheese with mold.