Saturday, August 1, 2009

Waxing Cheese for Food Storage- NOT!

Recently I went to a preparedness/food storage class. The presenter was telling us how we could wax cheese and keep it in our food storage for years. Immediately several red flags came to my mind.... What about botulism?? What about mold?? What about food safety? When I brought these things up to the presenter she got very defensive with me. Call me crazy, but I certainly do not want my family and loved ones who eat my food storage to get sick. So without totally discrediting what I heard, I thought I would try to find out if this was safe. I went straight to the source (USU Extension Food Safety) and found out some information. The following comes from Brian in an email forwarded to me:
Hello Everyone:

It seems someone is traveling around telling folks to wax cheese and place it in food storage. And, giving credit to consumers, I've heard from many that this suggestion just doesn't sound safe.

We'll they are right.

Waxing cheese is a method to minimize mold growth on the surface of cheese. It cannot prevent growth or survival of many pathogenic bacteria. In fact it may promote anaerobic bacteria growth, like botulism.

Before the days of refrigeration, we made cheese that was dryer and fermented to a lower pH (higher acid). These types of cheeses were traditionally stored at room temperature with wax covers. The very low pH and fermentation byproducts could inhibit food borne illness bacteria. A perfect example is parmesan style cheese. Acid, dryness, and fermentation byproducts make this cheese capable of storage at room temperature.

Today, many cheeses are made strictly for storage under refrigeration. These cheeses may not have a low pH and other factors created in their manufacture to prevent pathogen growth, since the manufacturer knows they will be kept refrigerated. If someone waxes this cheese and leaves it in food storage, then there is absolutely no science indicating any level of safety.

Please inform consumers that there is no scientific evidence that waxing cheese is safe. In fact, there is evidence to the opposite - placing cheese meant for refrigeration at room temperature is a SIGNIFICANT risk and hazard for food borne illness.


Brian A. Nummer, Ph.D.

Extension Food Safety Specialist

Director, Retail Food Safety Consortium

8700 Old Main Hill

Utah State University

Logan, UT 84322-8700


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