Cheese Mites & Maggots

Cheese Mites & Maggots
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Cheese manufacturers use spider-like insects and fly larvae to impart particular flavors and aromas to certain cheeses.

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Cases of cheese mite dermatitis date back over 60 years in the United States—also known as cheese itch. Though typically considered vermin by the food industry, affecting harder cheeses like aged cheddar in particular, they [maggots] are sometimes intentionally added to cheese for added flavor. In the Journal of Dairy Science, the various species were recently identified. When cheese is ripened with mites, a nutty, fruity flavor and aroma evidently develops. The placement of the anal suckers can evidently be used to help differentiate between the different types, to make sure you put the right one in the cheese. Here’s a video of the little suckers in action, ripening the cheese, developing the nutty, fruity flavor and aroma.

Positively appetizing, though, compared to some other cheesemaking practices. The “cheese skipper” is sometimes present in well-aged cheese and a proof of its quality. The cheese skipper doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize they’re talking about cheese infested with maggots of the cheese fly. The larvae are the well-known cheese skippers. They can cause intestinal infections—even urinary tract infections.

Normally the insects are just contaminants, but there is a spider cheese equivalent of the maggot world, casu marzu—a soft cheese intentionally riddled with thousands maggots of the cheese fly to aid in fermentation. Evidently because the larvae can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimeters, diners are said to hold their hands above their sandwiches to prevent the maggots from leaping into their face.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring,  watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Ninjatacoshell, John Curtis, Shardan via Wikimedia Commons, and zimpenfish via Flckr.

Cases of cheese mite dermatitis date back over 60 years in the United States—also known as cheese itch. Though typically considered vermin by the food industry, affecting harder cheeses like aged cheddar in particular, they [maggots] are sometimes intentionally added to cheese for added flavor. In the Journal of Dairy Science, the various species were recently identified. When cheese is ripened with mites, a nutty, fruity flavor and aroma evidently develops. The placement of the anal suckers can evidently be used to help differentiate between the different types, to make sure you put the right one in the cheese. Here’s a video of the little suckers in action, ripening the cheese, developing the nutty, fruity flavor and aroma.

Positively appetizing, though, compared to some other cheesemaking practices. The “cheese skipper” is sometimes present in well-aged cheese and a proof of its quality. The cheese skipper doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize they’re talking about cheese infested with maggots of the cheese fly. The larvae are the well-known cheese skippers. They can cause intestinal infections—even urinary tract infections.

Normally the insects are just contaminants, but there is a spider cheese equivalent of the maggot world, casu marzu—a soft cheese intentionally riddled with thousands maggots of the cheese fly to aid in fermentation. Evidently because the larvae can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimeters, diners are said to hold their hands above their sandwiches to prevent the maggots from leaping into their face.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring,  watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Ninjatacoshell, John Curtis, Shardan via Wikimedia Commons, and zimpenfish via Flckr.

Doctor's Note

Cheese manufacturers may also add aluminum to cheese to improve sliceability (see Aluminum in Vaccines vs. Food), just as the poultry industry adds arsenic to the diets of chickens to improve carcass coloration (Arsenic in Chicken). The farmed salmon industry also artificially colors the flesh of their fish (see Artificial Coloring in Fish) and the egg industry tries in vain to compete with greens by adding plant pigments to chicken feed (Egg Industry Blind Spot).

Be sure to check out my other videos on questionable industry practices. Note that the cheddar cheese mite study is available open access, so you can download it by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog post, Adding FDA-Approved Viruses to Meat.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

42 responses to “Cheese Mites & Maggots

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  1. Cheese manufacturers may also add aluminum to cheese to improve
    sliceability (see Aluminum in Vaccines vs. Food), just as the poultry adds arsenic to the diets of chickens to improve carcass coloration (Arsenic in Chicken). The farmed salmon industry also artificially colors the flesh of their fish (see Artificial Coloring in Fish) and the egg industry tries in vain to compete with greens by adding plant pigments to chicken feed (Egg Industry Blind Spot). Please feel free to browse through the other videos on questionable industry practices and hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects. Note that the cheddar cheese mite study is available open access, so you can download it by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.




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    1. I love this!!!!  My patients will love it even more! Nothing like the gross-factor to convince people to change.
      Keep up yoour great work!!!!!




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    2. Just a note:  I was at the store the other day and my 12 year old son said, “Dad want some mites?” while pointing at the cheese.  I had to chuckle. Because of this video my son has since convinced two of his friends to go Vegan.  In fact, he went to a Birthday Party yesterday at one of those friends house and everything was Vegan!!  Life’s little triumphs!
      Keep it up Michael!!!!!!




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  2. So the real question is *how many* cheese manufacturers add these insects to their cheese? Saying “some” do is leaving a pretty wide latitude. It could be 1/10 of 1 percent or 99%. 

    I have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since I was 16 (I’m 61 now) and would like to move towards being vegan. This will definitely help if these practices are widespread.

    PETA’s “Got Pus” campaign got me off cow’s milk lickety-split. Should I assume the percentages of cheese manufacturers doing this is high?




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    1. Go vegan already, Ann. Who cares if cheese has insects in it or not? Cheese contains the stomach pieces of baby calves so technically, you’re not really a vegetarian.

      I think these links will help you give up eggs and cheese:

      Why vegans do not eat eggs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ–faib7to The video above is NOT a cleverly edited video; it is standard procedure they really don’t want us to know that now, some states are trying to make recording undercover videos like this illegal (“AG-GAG bill”); it’s already illegal in 5 states (Iowa, Utah, Kansas, North Dakota, Montana): http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/five-states-now-have-ag-gag-laws-on-the-books/ Why vegans do not eat cheese: http://www.thisveganlife.org/i-couldnt-give-up-cheese-so-i-gave-up-animal-cruelty-instead Why vegans do not consume even “cage-free” eggs and “humane/organic” milk/dairy products: http://www.humanemyth.org 




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      1. Almost no mainstream cheeses still use natural rennet. Out of everything Tilamook makes, for example, there are two that use calf stomach rennet. Also, don’t be a dick about people’s dietary choices.




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        1. Ian,
          What’s “dick” is calling people dick for informing people who want to know- what’s in our food. You don’t like go sign up for McDonalds alerts Just saying




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  3. Sure, this is gross, but the really disgusting thing about it is it is made with the milk of another species, from a mother who has been impregnated and had her baby taken and killed so we can use the mothers’s milk. Now that is disgusting!




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  4. Love all the information on the site, but I have to say this is the first one lost on me – and credibility is everything.  So what does bugs used in cheese have to do with nutrition??  Is there a point that there is some negtive health outcome (and as others have asked, is it even commonly used? – doesn’t sound like it), or is this just to make cheese seem icky because, oh no, it might have a bug in it??




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    1. The video did say the medical problem cheese eaters may suffer is dermatitis.  I’ve got that condition and it is not a minor problem for many people.
      I would also like to know how widespread this practice of adding mites is, the video leaves that question open and I feel like it would be more powerful if that were made clear. 




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      1. Leaping Maggots Berryman!  That the Dairy industry has done this practice even once should convince you that the only thing they care about is marketability, which leads to profitability.  If crap made cheese taste better they would for sure add it.  They could care less about your health! Watch this video about the USDA and how much they DON’T care about you and your health:  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-science-versus-corporate-interests/




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        1. They COULDN’T care less. Seriously, the bottom line for everything is money. They couldn’t care less about your health, nor your children, nor the environment, nor the fact that you’re eating bugs you don’t know about…and apparently, most people would prefer to be in the dark because it’s inconvenient to know the truth. Imagine how inconvenient it is for the animals who live the dairy/meat industry horrors every moment of every day. 




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      2. It’s super uncommon. If you’re buying cheese from large producers you will never be exposed to it. The practice of adding mites is only used in the production of two very specific cheese, Mimolette and Milbenkase. The presence of cheese mites can happen in some small batch, artisan, aged cheeses but is considered a production flaw and is quickly and easily identified by a distinctive dusty rind. Any reputable cheesemonger will be able to identify the problem and will refuse delivery of the cheese.




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        1. Agree, if you know anything about cheese, as you obviously do, you will know it is not widespread nor done in very commercial brand cheeses. Bugs are everywhere, mites are on your skin, bugs and mites crawl all over the plants vegans eat too. If you took a microscopic look at everything in this world you would freak out and and cease to function, but everything has to be put in proper perspective. I don’t like fear and gross out tactics to push a food choice stance.




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    2. The only concern with the mites is that of dermatitis, a common skin reaction to those with mite allergies. The practice of adding mites is only used in the production of two VERY specific cheeses, Mimolette and Milbenkase and the mites are long dead by the time the cheese is distributed.




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    3. Um, to me the issue is… it happens, and we eat…some of us are BUGGED by certain issues and appreciate the info! Yet one more reason to leave animal products out of our diets. If you don’t want to deal with it, fine, but how is this not “credible”?




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    4. I agree, it’s not complete enough information and seems to favor the side of using fear and gross out tactics to get people to go vegan.




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    5. Ian,
      What’s “dick” is calling people dick for informing people who want to know- what’s in our food. You don’t like go sign up for McDonalds alerts Just saying




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    1. plenty of plants have estrogen like compounds, soy is full of them. Too much soy will also slow down your thyroid to a slow crawl.




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  5. Oy.  This adds a whole new level to what I call “glatt treif”, incredibly non-kosher. Between this and Starbucks owing up to using cochineal to color some of their products you wonder what else is “buggy” out there.




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  6. I am a bugatarian. I don’t eat animals or fish. I eat a lot of vegetables like grass and when I can get them….BUGS!

    You forgot something Doc. You said nothing about the nutrition benefits of maggots. Well, are they good or or they bad for me? I am a goose. Maybe they are OK for humans too?




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  7. The process of using cheese mites is used only for very specific cheeses, Mimolette and Milbernkase, and is considered a flaw in the production of any other cheese. The mites are long dead and gone when the cheese is consumed and the health risk is less than the risk you take sleeping on your own mattress where you’re exposed to far greater quantities of mites and is only relevant at all to those suffering from mite allergies. Casu Marzu, the maggot cheese, is more of a strange novelty than a staple foodstuff and the health risks are so obvious that it’s really only enjoyed by the most extreme gastronomes. Gross, yes, but it’s a strange, regional, traditional practice, not a standard industry practice and the avoidance of all cheese due to these two ridiculously specific processes, neither of which occur in the US, is just absurd.

    As for the rennet discussion in the posts above, remember that many cheeses are made with vegetable enzymes in place of traditional animal rennet.




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    1. Many? How many? As you criticized the doc, can you please specify the number? Doesn’t seem like many as calf rennet is so redily available thanks to all the dairy farms which lead to veal factories.
      And what about the blood, pus and leukemia virus in the milk?Casomorphin? Or cancer promoting proteins? Thanks but no thanks, more points against eating the curdled fat from mammalian milk that for it in my humble opinion. No matter how much you love cheese…




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  8. Argh! Cheese…Just saw a friend share this article on FB… https://www.tastingtable.com/dine/national/eating-cheese-good-health?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=organic… I wonder who sponsor that study… I would like to respond to her. Could you please help me provide a valid argument to respond to that “Study” about cheese? I do not even know where to start! Thanks! And thank you for all your good work! With gratitude, =)




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    1. No worries Gina, it just took clicking on a few of the links in the article your friend shared to find that the study was “Funded by the Dairy Management Inc.”. I never was actually able to see the study because your link took me to another article about the study but gave no actual reference link to the study. The article did however say as I quoted above, who the study was funded by. The actual premise of the study was ludicrous and although the title of the article had to do with cheese helping heart disease the actual study was trying to see what would raise blood pressure the least, cheese, pretzels or soy cheese and they found that cheese was the winner. Don’t forget, who the study was funded by…




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  9. It appears humanity will not be deterred easily from the consumption of cheese in spite of the maggots used to impart a particular flavor.
    The dairy industry finances reports such as the one published in Nutrition & Diabetes on March 20, 2017 trying to convince the sheeple that cheese consumption does not increase LDL cholesterol. The report was picked up by the mass media with enthusiasm; surely a great day for cheese addicts.
    http://www.nature.com/nutd/journal/v7/n2/full/nutd201654a.html




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