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Can You Get Food Poisoning from Cheese?



You CAN get food poisoning from cheese.

More Info: In fact, the number one cause of listeria outbreaks is cheese. [1] Furthermore, from 1998 to 2011, the CDC recorded over 2,000 illnesses, 248 hospitalizations, and two deaths caused by the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products such as cheese. [2]

Raw Milk Cheese

You run the risk of food poisoning when you eat cheese that has been made with unpasteurized milk. Cheeses made with raw milk can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella. These bacteria can cause severe illness and even death.  For example, Salmonella can cause reactive arthritis and typhoid depending on the strain. Listeria can cause meningitis. Brucella can cause undulant fever, and E. coli O157:H7 can cause inflammation of the intestine, destroy red blood cells, and cause kidney damage. [3]

The number one cause of listeria outbreaks are soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. [4]  According to the Centers for Disease Control, soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and Queso Fresco, made with unpasteurized milk are up to 160 times more likely to cause listeria infections than those cheeses made with pasteurized milk. [5]

Incorrect Processing

You may also get food poisoning from cheese that has been processed incorrectly even though it has been pasteurized such as was the case with the Mexican-style cheese involved in a Listeria outbreak in the US. In this case, it was suggested that raw milk was introduced to the cheese because the pasteurization process was inadequate. [6]

What about Moldy Cheese?

Molds are microscopic fungi that invade food under the right conditions.  They produce spores that spread and can cause allergic reactions and respiratory issues.  Some produce mycotoxins that are poisonous that can cause disease and even death. [7]

But not all molds are toxic, including those used in the cheese making process.

Good Molds.  The molds that are used in making certain cheeses are actually part of the ripening process and safe to eat. P. roqueforti or Penicillium Roquefort spores are actually added to blue veined cheeses such as Gorgonzola, blue, and Roquefort.  According to the USDA, molds used in the cheese making process are safe to eat. [8]


Bad Molds. Mold that grows on the cheese after purchase may be harmful.  A large block of hard cheese may still be able to be eaten if certain precautions are taken.  According to the USDA, you must remove at least one-inch around and below the mold spot and take care not to get mold on the knife. [9]

Any other type of cheese that has mold should immediately be discarded including soft, semi-soft, sliced, shredded, and crumbled cheeses. [10]

How to Safeguard against Food Poisoning from Cheese

  • Purchase pasteurized cheeses. The label should be clearly marked.
  • Store cheese in a refrigerator that is 40 degrees or below.
  • Throw out soft cheeses that have been at room temperature for more than four hours. [@]
  • Toss out any soft, semi-soft, crumbled, or sliced cheeses that are moldy.



[1]”Food poisoning – Causes .” National Health Service-UK. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

[2]”Raw Milk Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

[3][6] “Dairy Research & Information Center – U.C. Davis.” Dairy Research & Information Center – U.C. Davis. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

[4][5] “Listeria and Food.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 June 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

[7]Bennett, J.W.. “Mycotoxins.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews 16.3 (2003): 497-516. Print.

[8][9][10] “FSIS.” Molds On Food: Are They Dangerous?. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2014. <>.

[11]”Handling of Cheese for Safety & Quality.” HGIC 3506 : Extension : Clemson University : South Carolina. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

“News & Events.” FDA and CDC Remind Consumers of the Dangers of Drinking Raw Milk. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

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