waxing cheese - not recommended

Last night I was made aware of this statement from USU Extension services:

"From time to time, dubious methods arise for preparing and storing various food items. Current information being circulated about the merits of dipping cheese in wax and placing it in storage for many years can be placed in this category. Consider the science.

• Waxing cheese is a method to minimize mold growth on the surface of cheese. It cannot prevent growth or survival of many illness-causing bacteria. In fact, it may promote anaerobic (absence of oxygen) bacteria growth, such as botulism. The practice of waxing cheese for storage is considered extremely unsafe.

• Before the days of refrigeration, cheese 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 foodborne illness bacteria. An example is parmesan-style cheese. Acid, dryness and fermentation byproducts make this cheese storable 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 the manufacturing process to prevent illness-causing bacteria growth because the manufacturer knows the cheeses will be kept refrigerated. If someone waxes this cheese and places it in food storage, there is no science indicating any level of safety. In fact, there is evidence to the opposite ? placing cheese meant for refrigeration at room temperature is a significant risk and hazard for foodborne illness.

Contact your local USU Extension office for further information on safe home food preservation and for storage advice." (Brian Nummer, Utah State University Extension food safety specialist, September 9, 2009)

As a result of this information, I no longer recommend waxing cheese for storage.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Now do you have any ideas about what I can do with the $40.00 worth of cheese wax I bought?

Wendy said...

So discouraging, I know.

Diggity Dog said...

Thanks, I was wondering about this and room temperature meats recently. I couldn't reconcile all the salamis I see hanging in old Black and White movies and Klinger had on M*A*S*H with the fact that every single thing today needs to be refrigerated.

At least I know the why now. :)

Preparedness Pro said...

In defense of cheese wax, I personally have waxed cheese with no problems. The local Utah Valley University Extension offices shared this with me in an email: "A few cheeses based on their dryness, fermentation, and a few other factors are safe to store at room temperature. When these cheeses are stored that way, they can develop mold on the surface. Waxing the surface inhibits that mold." After extensive research, I found only one case in which someone contracted botulism from cheese -- it was in 1951 and from cheese sauce. In my blog about the controversy surrounding cheese wax, I found several university instructions which specifically stated hard cheese did NOT require refrigeration from the likes of Purdue, Mississippi State University and the FDA. Worth looking into before writing off cheese wax altogether. http://bit.ly/o97Do

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't know this about waxing cheese. Thank you for the heads up.:) We have canned cheese from Australia(Bega brand) in our food storage, but it's good to know that waxed cheese is not a good addition.