The world's most 'dangerous' cheese and why eating it is bad for your health

As a nation, the UK loves cheese. One 2023 market report found that nine out of 10 of us enjoy eating the stuff. And it can be found in around 94 percent of our fridges.

However, for most people, their cheese consumption will revolve around the classics, such as cheddar, red Leicester, and brie.

It is very unlikely that you’ll hear of Brits tucking into casu marzu – an Italian cheese often referred to as the most “dangerous” cheese in the world. But why is this?

Cheese is made by curdling milk and processing what is left. Depending on the type of cheese it will be left to age for different lengths of time.

Certain bacteria will be used as part of the cheese-making process and in some cases edible mould is also used – creating what we know as blue cheeses.

Casu marzu takes this a step further by containing live maggot larvae – and this is what can make it so harmful to humans.

The cheese is a part of the Pecorino family – a traditional cheese from Sardinia made from pressed, cooked sheep’s milk.

While it is being left to mature, cheese skipper flies – or Piophila casei – lay their eggs in gaps that form in the cheese.

The maggots hatch and make their way through the cheese, digesting proteins as they go, and ultimately transforming the product into a soft creamy cheese.

For the final step, the cheesemonger cracks open the top, usually untouched by the maggots, to scoop out a spoonful of the creamy delicacy.

Locals and some tourists will then eat it, either with or without the maggots, with fans agreeing it has an intense, spicy flavour that leaves an aftertaste for hours.

But would you be brave enough to give it a go?

Health risks

Some experts warn it is not worth giving it a try.

In 2009, Guinness World Records declared it the world’s most dangerous cheese.

It is also illegal to buy or sell it within the EU due to the health risks.

The cheese has also been deemed illegal by the Italian government since 1962 due to laws that prohibit the consumption of food infected by parasites.

But as a traditional product of Sardinia, it is somewhat protected and locals continue to create and eat it – they might just be hit with a fine if caught.

Part of the risk comes from the fact the larvae could pass through your stomach without dying and that can cause serious intestine problems.

The Guiness Book of Records stated: “The maggots, once consumed, can survive stomach acid to pass through the intestine walls, causing vomiting, abdominal pain and bloody diarrhoea.”

There are also concerns it could create myiasis, which are micro-perforations in the intestine, but so far no such case has been linked to casu marzu.

If this doesn’t put you off there’s also the fact its very name, casu marzu means “rotten cheese”.


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