Author Topic: (mixed) surface flora safety concerns  (Read 455 times)

Offline Zoey

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(mixed) surface flora safety concerns
« on: April 12, 2013, 01:51:02 AM »

I've been fiddling around with cheeses that are wax coated or have an easily recognisable surface flora, such as P.Candidum, P.Roqueforti or smear. But what I am really afraid of, is mixed rinds that (to my understanding) seem to have a pretty random mold/yeast population (e.g. cheddar and the like).

So, here are my questions/thoughts:

- When you make these types, do you aim to introduce specific species to the rind or just whatever it may pick up?
- Do you inocculate the cheese with these species or just trust that something will appear?
- If so, do you trust that these species will thrive and leave no room for anything else?
- Is it necessary / do you aim to recognise everything that grows on the surface?
- If not, maybe you just aim to recognise some of the non-harmless types?

In addition to the cheese making hobby, I am a very eager mushroom picker (anything self-sufficiency related really). In the mushroom world, it seems that the rule is always to only eat what you can recognise with absolute certainty. Since molds are mushrooms, I tend to believe that this is the rule in cheese world also. But am I right, or just being paranoid?

(Here in Finland, we have a saying among mushroom enthusiasts: "Make sure you know the most poisonous mushrooms. Only eat mushrooms you know." - wonder what that leads to.  :))

Offline Schnecken Slayer

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Re: (mixed) surface flora safety concerns
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2013, 05:17:04 AM »
I watched a documentary many years ago that said 99% of things that grow on cheese are harmless to humans.
If you are concerned then simply cut the rind off.

Linuxboy will have definitive answers if he is around.
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One day I will add something here...

Offline Zoey

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Re: (mixed) surface flora safety concerns
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2013, 05:19:15 AM »
I'm under the same impression. I just feel that 1% is quite a risk... especially if one makes 100 cheeses. :)
And if I cut the visible part off, can I be sure that there are no toxins that have been released into the cheese?

Offline linuxboy

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Re: (mixed) surface flora safety concerns
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2013, 05:29:42 AM »
I am going to go to an extreme and say that no molds that grow on properly refined cheese are toxic because the substrate and management process makes it inhospitable (bacteria are another story).

Can't answer in detail until later but
- rind populations are definitely NOT random. They're remarkably consistent around the world in succession
- if you build it, they will come
- There are remarkably few ways to properly care for cheese, and yet the slight changes in these ways results in tremendous variety
- Trusting in the wild ambient environment with no controls is tricky, but not so much from health perspective. More from taste and quality perspective. Wheareas there are relatively few ways to make good cheese, there are many ways during affinage to make bad cheese. Even then, can usually cut off the rind.
- There is a slight parallel between rind flora and outright mushrooms, but not that much. For example, aspergillus-origin mycotoxins aren't really going to be present in cheese. Aspergillus just doesn't like cheese that much. Whereas with mushrooms, you can get an amanitas with a-amanitin. Completely different situation, there's no direct analogy or comparison
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 06:53:00 AM by linuxboy »
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Offline Zoey

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Re: (mixed) surface flora safety concerns
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2013, 02:32:57 PM »
linuxboy, that certainly sounds comforting.

Although I'm quite sure that my cheeses wouldn't qualify as "properly refined cheese" as you probably use that term. I don't use a pH meter, and although I'm trying to be very careful about the making process, I'm just simply not a very disciplined person, and in addition, I have two toddlers running around the house and they may need my attention at any time in the process, and in those cases, the cheese has to come second.

I'm sure bacteria are another issue, as you say. I worry about those as well, but as I cannot see them and I'm not a microbiologist, I've just done as much research as I was able to, and then made peace with the idea that I try my best with hygiene and then just trust it works.

My mushroom comparison simply comes from the idea that both are fungi, and it seems to me that there are a vast number of species of fungi, and that humans are only starting to understand them. I wouldn't eat a mushroom simply because it grows in a certain environment, since probably there would be around 1500 species that COULD grow in that environment and only half or less of them known, examined and listed by science. But it sounds like the situation might be more under control with cheeses?