Soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese and ricotta, with mold should be discarded. The same goes for any kind of cheese that's shredded, crumbled or sliced.
With these cheeses, the mold can send threads throughout the cheese — contaminating more than you see. In addition, harmful bacteria, such as listeria, brucella, salmonella and E. coli, can grow along with the mold.
Mold generally can't penetrate far into hard and semisoft cheeses, such as cheddar, colby, Parmesan and Swiss. So you can cut away the moldy part and eat the rest of the cheese. Cut off at least 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) around and below the moldy spot. Be sure to keep the knife out of the mold, so it doesn't contaminate other parts of the cheese.
Of course, not all molds pose a risk. Some types of mold are used to make cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert. These molds are safe for healthy adults to eat. However, these cheeses, as well as other soft cheeses and cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, are best avoided by people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children.
If you're not sure what type of cheese you have or what to do if it grows mold, the safe course is to discard it.
Sept. 12, 2020
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Foodborne illness: What consumers need to know. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/foodborne-illness-and-disease/foodborne-illness-what-consumers-need-to-know/ct_index. Accessed Aug. 28, 2018.
- Molds on food: Are they dangerous? U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/molds-on-food-are-they-dangerous_/ct_index. Accessed Aug. 28, 2018.
- AskMayoExpert. Listeria. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2018.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 28, 2018.