Cheese waxing is a subject that I frequently see come up on the internet. This is a subject that causes me real concern. I understand the desire to wax your own cheese for long-term storage. However, I have some real concerns about it. The following statement from Dr. Nummer of Utah State University explains the problem:
“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 of the opposite. Placing cheese meant for refrigeration at room temperature is a significant risk and hazard for foodborne illness.”
Brian A Nummer, Ph.D
Extension Food Safety Specialist
Director Food Safety Specialist
Utah State University
Cheese waxing is a practice that has a long history of use. Any cheeses you obtain that are waxed at the factory and do not require refrigeration should be fine for storage. As you read in the letter about some cheeses are fine to wax, others can kill you. I don’t know how to tell the difference and all the articles on the internet say about that is to use dry cheese.
I don’t want to risk the lives of my family or myself to save a few dollars. If you want cheese you can trust, buy some of the waxed cheese you can find in a good deli or Italian grocery