Is cutting out the mold spots enough, or are you secretly poisoning yourself
EC: Is Mold on Cheese Bad for You?
Credit: Photo by Flickr user Alan Levine

If you've ever gone into the fridge and noticed patches of green or white mold on cheese, then you know the classic choice. Do you throw out cheese with mold on it? Or do you cut around the mold, grab some crackers, and hope for the best? The question doesn't arise with something like bread: moldy bread is bad, and you throw it out. But, well, after all, isn't cheese basically mold to begin with? Is mold on cheese bad or is it just like a bad strawberry—once separated from the rest of the batch, you're fine? Or is it one of those things lurking in your system that might cause you to get seriously ill?

First step back and assess what kind of cheese it is. If you see mold on cottage cheese, ricotta, or cream cheese, alas, you need to throw that cheese away. Same thing goes if you see mold in shredded or crumbled cheese, like bagged cheddar shreds or a tub of crumbled feta. "Mold can send threads throughout soft and shredded cheeses and also support the growth of harmful bacteria, such as brucella, listeria, E. coli, and salmonella ... all of which can make one very sick," food scientist Kantha Shelke told Business Insider.

If you have a blue cheese, however, the mold there won't hurt—it actually tastes delicious. Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Roquefort are perfectly OK to eat if you find some mold on them. And then there are the hard cheeses, like the block of Cabot cheddar you've been holding in reserve for a grilled cheese, or that big hunk of Swiss you served with crackers at your last book group. Food safety experts recommend, for mold on hard cheeses, that you can indeed cut out the moldy spot and eat that cheese as you would normally. To be safe, cut out a one-inch radius around the moldy spot. Don't scrape off the mold or smell it to see if the cheese is good, as that might cause you to inhale mold spores, which are not at all desirable to inhale.

What happens if you eat cheese with mold on it? Probably nothing, though in some people, eating mold can cause allergic reactions. In rare cases, it could be poisonous, and even cause vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and internal bleeding. So just in case, be safe, and cut that mold off.