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The Bleus
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Hello All,

I am still really confused about the bleu cheeses, and after a conversation with the cheese monger at Whole Foods, I am more so. He said that any cheese that uses the Penicillum mold should not be eaten by celiacs (thank you Dr. Cheese Monger). It was my understanding that these cheeses were once made with the mold that had been cultivated on bread, but that that is generally not the case anymore. Furthermore, Red Robin indicates on their gluten-free menu that bleu cheese has to be left off of their salads to make them gluten-free. What's the real dope on the bleus? Anyone have any up to the minute knowledge they can share?

Thanks,

Karen

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From my understanding, it is not a gluten issue but a fungus issue. Do you want to take in active fungus/mold into your body that is already immunocompromised? You decide.

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Every legal cheese label should have a phone number where you can call to ask if the cultures/molds they use are gluten-free. Most blue cheese companies are used to this question - and the specific mold which causes the blue to occur is penicillium roquefortii (possibly there is one less i). I've never heard of a blanket penicillium problem - these pen-mold strains are also used to make "white rinded" cheeses such as camembert and brie. Fungus derivative (mucor muheii) is used to "set" many cheeses and is called "vegetarian" rennet in the industry (which makes curds out of fluid milk). I don't believe it is active in a finished cheese, but I am a cheesemaker, not a food scientist.

I'm sure your cheese counter person is doing their best, but is not in the business of making cheese - so better to call direct if you have any concerns.

ps: I make blue cheese, and our blue mold straight out of the bottle is not considered gluten-free.

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My understanding is that some blue cheeses are made without using gluten in the starter. You have to be very specific and check each blue cheese. That's why I never trust blue cheese in a restaurant.

Shauna James Ahearn, "The Gluten-Free Girl" book author told me that Point Reyes blue cheeses are gluten-free. I called and verified that with the company. You should do the same. I'm sure there are other brands, as Mamma Goose says, that are also gluten-free.

I get Point Reyes at Whole Foods, QFC and sometimes PCC in Seattle/Kirkland/Redmond.

I love-Love-LOVE blue cheese and was very happy to find some I could eat.

~Laura

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In response to your question on the crumbles - Many restaurants and grocery stores (think salad bar) add wheat to the crumbles to prevent them from caking and to bulk them up.

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Every legal cheese label should have a phone number where you can call to ask if the cultures/molds they use are gluten-free. Most blue cheese companies are used to this question - and the specific mold which causes the blue to occur is penicillium roquefortii (possibly there is one less i). I've never heard of a blanket penicillium problem - these pen-mold strains are also used to make "white rinded" cheeses such as camembert and brie. Fungus derivative (mucor muheii) is used to "set" many cheeses and is called "vegetarian" rennet in the industry (which makes curds out of fluid milk). I don't believe it is active in a finished cheese, but I am a cheesemaker, not a food scientist.

I'm sure your cheese counter person is doing their best, but is not in the business of making cheese - so better to call direct if you have any concerns.

ps: I make blue cheese, and our blue mold straight out of the bottle is not considered gluten-free.

There are a few permatations ... Blue cheese can be split into 'authentic' blue cheeses and copies. (and some between just to complicate matters) ...

A 'pure' blue cheese is started with live but native penicillin. In a real authentic blue cheese this is native to the caves where it is matured. In some cases a gluten-base is used to kick this off and in others it is transferrred via spores naturally.

Sometimes an example is easier ...

Several cheeses are legally allowed to be called Roquefort. The criteria is the sheep must be grazed in a certain area and the cheese matured in the same area but the area is reasonably large.

Within this area several manufacturers use different methods of infection. Roquefort Societe uses a natural infection with no gluten based host. Roquefort Carles uses a rye based host which is placed in the cave and the mold injected into the cheese. (Hence CC)

Baragnaudes (owned by Societe too) is also naturally infected but with a different strain of P. Roquforti native to a specific cave system.

However ... until recently bleu d' auverne used a native P. Roquforti but they are now legally allowed import the southern strain. How they do this probably differes from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some still use the native (inferior) strain.

If the cheese is not authentic (i.e. illegal by WTF laws but legal by US laws then all bets are off) This is still more complex as the cheesemakers themselves break international law selling the cheese to the US and UK since these countires make it difficult to sell real unpasturised blue cheese.

Even more ... the UK squeezed out its own cheese market by allowing a monopoly to develop. Hence now great classics like Wenslydale (of Wallace and Grommit fame) are not even using Ewes milk anymore but pasturised Cows milk????

I lament this as a cheese lover ... even more so since I can't get away with much casein!

So ... basically call the manufacturer on a case by case basis is really the only safe way...

Finally, all this goes out of the window if your cheese shop is using the same cheese cutter !!!

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From my understanding, it is not a gluten issue but a fungus issue. Do you want to take in active fungus/mold into your body that is already immunocompromised? You decide.

I'm on a gluten free diet, not a fungus free diet. So for me, it is a gluten issue.

best regards, lm

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