Can you eat mozzarella uncooked? (5 cheeses to avoid uncooked)
In this article, we will answer the following question: “Can you eat mozzarella uncooked?” and discuss why you can use mozzarella uncooked and the possible risks of eating mozzarella cheese uncooked.
Can you eat mozzarella uncooked?
Yes, you can eat mozzarella, both uncooked and cooked. Mozzarella is a soft cheese produced with pasteurized milk and therefore is safe to eat uncooked if it has been stored correctly (3).
Due to its properties, mozzarella has a short shelf life, of about 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Uncooked mozzarella can be used in ready-to-eat sandwiches, but the main application of this cheese is to prepare pizza and as a food ingredient (1).
What are the risks of eating mozzarella uncooked?
The risks of eating mozzarella uncooked are that it can be contaminated if improperly handled and stored.
Although the cheese is produced with pasteurized milk and heated in water at 160°F (72°C) to be stretched during its production (1), therefore considered safe to eat uncooked, shredding, improper storing and unhygienic handling of the cheese results in contaminations, which may cause foodborne diseases (2,4).
Many food outbreaks have been reported due to the consumption of contaminated mozzarella, related to pathogenic bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and others.
By heating mozzarella or cooking it on a pizza, the possible microbial load of the cheese is effectively reduced, increasing its safe consumption (3).
What happens when the mozzarella is cooked?
When the mozzarella is cooked, many changes occur, especially in the texture of this cheese. Mozzarella is widely consumed especially due to its properties of melting, browning, stretching, oiling off and chewing, when heated (1).
These properties depend on the production process, which results in mozzarella with different pH values, sugar contents, calcium and salt content, as well as if it has been stretched or not.
When heated, there is a relaxation of the protein structure, resulting in the flow of the cheese. The cheese texture turns softer to chew and allows stretching and releasing of oil.
When should you not eat mozzarella uncooked?
You should not eat mozzarella uncooked after its expiration date. If the mozzarella cheese has expired, and there are no signs of spoilage in the cheese, it is safer to eat mozzarella cheese after cooking.
That is because cooking above 165°F (74°C) can effectively reduce the microbial load of the food to a safe level and thus reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses.
However, if you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a change in the odour, flavour, or the presence of mould on the surface of the cheese, you should not eat the cheese, cooked or uncooked (1,3).
What cheese types should not be eaten uncooked?
The cheese types that should not be eaten uncooked are the ones made with unpasteurized milk. These cheeses are in general not commercialized in the United States and many other countries (1), but there are to find in local producers, farmers and handlers (2).
The cheese types that are traditionally produced with unpasteurized milk are Feta, Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheeses, as well as Mexican-style cheese, such as Queso chihuahua, Manchego, Queso fresco, and others.
The risks of foodborne diseases caused by Listeria monocytogenes are considered high by the consumption of such cheeses, especially uncooked.
Individuals at risk, including pregnant women, are advised to not consume cheeses made with unpasteurized milk and to even avoid soft cheeses produced with pasteurized milk (1).
Other FAQs about Mozarella that you may be interested in.
In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat mozzarella uncooked?” and discussed why you can eat mozzarella uncooked and the risks of eating mozzarella cheese uncooked, as well as the types of cheese that should not be eaten uncooked.
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Makkuni D, Kent R, Watts R, Clunie G. Two cases of serious food-borne infection in patients treated with anti-TNF-α. Are we doing enough to reduce the risk?. Rheumatology. 2006 Feb 1;45(2):237-8.
Johnson EA, Nelson JH, Johnson M. Microbiological safety of cheese made from heat-treated milk, part II. microbiology. Journal of Food Protection. 1990 Jun 1;53(6):519-40.
Camellini S, Iseppi R, Condò C, Messi P. Ready-to-Eat Sandwiches as Source of Pathogens Endowed with Antibiotic Resistance and Other Virulence Factors. Applied Sciences [Internet] 2021;11(16):7177.