Debunking Common Cheese Myths with Formaticum

Posted by Emilia D'Albero on

One of the most wonderful things about cheese is that there is always something new to learn about this delightful dairy product! But the amount of information available on the internet can be overwhelming, and not everything you read is true. Here at Formaticum, we strive to be a reliable source of information for cheese lovers, and all of our posts are written and fact-checked by real cheese professionals with years of experience working behind the counter and in other parts of the industry. 

To help you deepen your understand and appreciation for cheese, we've put together a list of some of the most common cheese myths and the truth about them. 

MYTH: Lactose-intolerant folks cannot consume cheese. 
TRUTH: Longer-aged cheeses contain little to no lactose and are easier on the stomach! Lactose, which is milk sugar, is converted into lactic acid during the cheesemaking process, and any residual lactose continues to be converted throughout aging until it is virtually undetectable. This is why fresh or younger cheeses like Mozzarella or Brie may cause more gastrointestinal distress than harder cheeses like clothbound Cheddar or aged Gouda. 

MYTH: Some cheeses are crunchy because of salt crystals. 
TRUTH: Those crunchy crystals are not actually salt! Cheeses like aged Gouda and Parmigiano Reggiano contain tyrosine crystals, which are buildups of amino acids that occur naturally as the cheese ages. They're commonly known as "flavor crystals" in the cheese industry, not because they themselves are flavorful, but because their presence usually indicates a longer-aged cheese that most likely will have intense flavor. Some cheddars will contain crystals known as calcium lactate, which can also occur on the outside of a block cheddar and are commonly mistaken for mold. 

MYTH: If a cheese has visible blue or green mold on the surface, the entire piece is contaminated and needs to be thrown out. 
TRUTH: It is normal and expected for cut pieces of cheese to develop surface mold over time, as molds and yeasts are integral to the cheesemaking and aging process. Cheese would not be cheese without mold! While moldy fresh or soft cheeses should be tossed, harder aged cheeses can and should be triaged. Aged cheeses are low moisture and not porous enough for the mold to penetrate too far, so cheese professionals and microbiologists recommend trimming the affected side and continuing to eat or cook with the cheese. If you want to avoid dealing with mold altogether, store your cheese properly - use Formaticum Cheese Storage Products (we recommend the new Reusable Bags and Sheets!) to keep the cheese fresher, longer in your fridge. You can also buy less cheese, more often to ensure maximum freshness whenever you eat or cook with your cheese. 

MYTH: "Sharp" is a catch-all term for "strong" or "very intense" when it comes to describing the flavor of a cheese. 
TRUTH: The term "sharp" has recently become very misunderstood due to some very effective marketing from larger cheese producers. "Sharp" actually refers specifically to that acidic, slightly bitter zing that is commonly found in cheeses like cheddar, and increases with age. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all term, as different cheeses from different producers can taste different even at the same age profile. The next time you visit your local cheesemonger, instead of asking for a "sharp" cheese, trying using other adjectives to more effectively describe the flavor profile you're looking for - a grassy or earthy cheddar, an oniony or nutty Alpine, a barnyardy Pecorino or Ossau Iraty.  If you don't know where to start, ask your cheesemonger to help! Tasting cheeses with your monger will help you develop your palate and identify the specific flavor profiles you enjoy and want to continue to discover. 

MYTH: Orange cheese is a uniquely American invention and denotes lower quality product. 
TRUTH: Not all orange cheeses are equal, and all cheeses (including slices) have their place! While some orange cheeses are processed or cheese "product," dying cheese orange has a long and storied history that actually originated in the UK. Cheeses like Red Leicester, Cheshire, and even some Gouda is colored orange using a natural dye called annatto seed, which does not affect the flavor or texture of the cheese. It was originally meant to make the cheese stand out in the market against other, paler cheeses but today is more of a stylistic choice. 

MYTH: Raw milk cheeses are not allowed in the United States. 
TRUTH: Raw milk cheese is not inherently dangerous, and the FDA allows the import and sale of raw milk cheese that has been aged for a minimum of 60 days. This includes raw milk cheeses that are made in the US, of which there are many! Quite a few of your favorite European cheeses are made with raw milk in their authentic form - for example, Parmigiano Reggiano, Le Gruyère AOP, and Comté must be made only with raw milk, according to PDO regulations. Imitation products like "Parmesan" and generic "gruyere" can be made with pasteurized milk, but cannot receive the PDO seal because they do not follow the stringent rules set by the consortium. Some producers of classic European cheeses like Brie de Meaux and Camembert de Normandie will produce pasteurized versions of these cheeses made specifically for the American market, but the flavor is not quite the same, as raw milk generally produces more complex flavor in cheese than pasteurized milk. 

Is there a cheese myth you want us to debunk? Email us at with your questions and comments! 

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