Blue cheese, with its distinct tangy flavor and characteristic blue veins, is a beloved cheese. It’s enjoyed by many. However, there are concerns about its safety: if blue cheese is pasteurized.
In this blog post, you’ll get a comprehensive understanding of the pasteurization status of blue cheese.
What is Pasteurization?
Pasteurization of milk is a process of killing bacteria and pathogens in raw milk. It involves heating milk products to a specific temperature for a given time. It enhances food safety besides increasing the milk products’ shelf life.
How is Traditional Blue Cheese Made?
Traditional blue cheese is made by adding a specific type of mold, Penicillium roqueforti, to the milk curdled with rennet.
- It starts with collecting high-quality milk meeting all necessary standards.
- The milk is pasteurized.
- The starter culture is added to the heated milk.
- Rennet is added to coagulate the milk, forming a curd.
- The curd is cut into small pieces to release the whey.
- The curds are transferred into molds, which help shape the cheese.
- Salt is added to the drained curd. It helps to control the growth of undesirable bacteria, besides helping mold growth.
- Mold, Penicillium roqueforti, or Penicillium glaucum are added to the cheese to develop those iconic blue veins in the cheese.
- The blue cheese is aged in a controlled environment for a few weeks to several months, depending on the desired flavor and texture.
- Packaging: Finally, it’s packaged and sold.
Understanding Blue Cheese Varieties (Pasteurized and Unpasteurized)
Blue cheese is available in various types, including Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Danish Blue. Each type has its own distinct characteristics and production methods. The pasteurization status of blue cheese depends on the specific variety and the country of origin.
Pasteurized Blue Cheese
Modern food production makes many commercially available blue cheeses using pasteurized milk.
Pasteurized blue cheese undergoes the process of pasteurization. It helps to kill bacteria effectively and reduces the risk of food-borne pathogens. Thus, pasteurized blue cheese is safe to consume, especially for individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and young children.
Some blue cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, such as Blue Castello and Blue Moon.
Raw Milk Or Unpasteurized Blue Cheese
On the other hand, some blue cheeses are made from raw or unpasteurized milk. These cheeses are often referred to as “raw milk blue cheese.” Yet, for health safety, these cheeses are aged for extended periods.
This extended aging process allows beneficial molds to develop and create distinctive blue veins.
Cheese fans highly prize raw milk blue cheese for its unique flavors and complex characteristics. The most common raw milk blue cheeses are Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Danish Blue.
The most common blue cheeses, such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Danish Blue, are traditionally made with unpasteurized milk.
Safety Concerns About Unpasteurized Blue Cheese
The use of raw milk in blue cheese production has raised concerns about potential bacterial contamination.
Raw milk can contain harmful bacteria, including Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli, which can pose health risks, according to the FDA.
Regulations about raw milk cheese production vary between countries.
For instance, in some countries, such as the United States and Canada, raw milk cheeses must be aged for a specific period (6 months) to ensure that the cheese is health-safe. These cheeses are rigorously tested for quality and safety before being sold to consumers.
This is why, according to a study published in the NLM, the rate of unpasteurized milk products related to food-borne illnesses has reduced by 74% from 2005 to 2016. And the reason has been the food regulations.
Labeling and Identification
To help consumers make informed choices, cheese packaging is labeled as made from pasteurized or raw milk. It clarifies the production method and alerts individuals who may be more susceptible to food-borne illnesses.
So, Is Unpasteurized Blue Cheese Safe for You?
The pasteurization status of blue cheese varies according to the blue cheese variety and the origin. Many commercially available blue cheeses are made from pasteurized milk. These are meat to ensure the consumer’s safety and to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
On the other hand, unpasteurized blue cheese undergoes strict regulations to be health-safe. There is also data that eating unpasteurized cheese hasn’t caused many food-related outbreaks during past years.
Yet, if you’re pregnant or have a weak immune system, it’s better to stay away from unpasteurized blue cheese and check the cheese label before getting it.