Is my cheese basket safe to eat?

basket with bread, cheese and wine
Photo credit: Stephen Ward

We received by mail, a cheese basket. It was room temperature, and apparently had been for at least a day. We put it in the fridge. Is it safe to eat?

- Clackamas County, OR

If this is a commercial product, check with the business that prepared and shipped it. They should have guidelines and may have packed select products for shipping that are safe if allowed to reach room temperature for a short time. You may also be able to reach the manufacturer of each product. They would have specific recommendations.

As a general rule, hard cheeses should be safe if still in their sealed packaging. These include cheddar, Colby, Swiss, parmesan, provolone, Ramano. These cheeses develop an acidity during aging and are pretty resistant to food borne pathogens.

Soft cheeses are a much greater risk. These are items like brie, bleu, camembert, cream, Monterey jack, ricotta, mozzarella. Shredded or cubed cheeses are also a greater risk because they have been handled and possibly exposed to contaminants that could have grown while warm. We recommend discarding these.

Grated hard cheese, like parmesan or Romano should be safe. These is little moisture in these to allow bacteria growth to occur.

For the hard cheeses you decide to keep, use them up soon, watch for mold or any off-flavors, consider using them in cooked products. This chart may help.  

Jeanne Brandt
Family and Community Health Faculty
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