Blue Cheese Blues: The Gluten-Free Controversy

I’ll be honest: it never occurred to me that there might be a gluten issue with blue cheese. Cheeses are naturally gluten-free, and it wasn’t until I was researching a possible dairy intolerance issue that I discovered what I can only describe as the Great Blue Cheese Controversy.

In a nutshell, the issue is this: some of the molds used to create blue cheeses are grown on gluten-based breads. The mold spores are used in the cheese-making process. There is a question for many as to whether or not these cheeses contain gluten. Of course, there is strong evidence that relatively few blue cheeses available in the wider market contain gluten.

First. Modern cheese-making techniques have somewhat obsoleted the need for bread as a mold-growing medium. Second. There are artisans who engage in old school practices. Third. The community is divided on this issue.

A study done in 2009 by the Canadian Celiac Association found that even those blue cheeses made with spores grown on a gluten-containing medium showed no traces of gluten. They used the most sensitive tests available at that time. This pretty much resolves the issue for me.

I haven’t noted any adverse reactions when I’ve eaten blue cheeses, but have read many anecdotes from people who point to blue cheeses as a source of inadvertent “glutenings”. This leads me to believe how a body reacts to blue cheese is dependent upon many factors, most importantly how the manufacturer makes the cheese. Or…

Let your body and your level of sensitivity be your guide when it comes to these cheeses. Major types of blue cheese includeL Roquefort (made in the south of France), Gorgonzola (Italy), Shropshire Blue (UK), Stilton (England), Danablu (Denmark), and Maytag Blue Cheese (United States). These and other veined cheeses should be verified by you before they are purchased (see the list below for brands that are currently gluten-free. And a few that are not.

The companies listed below make gluten-free blue cheese (as of the date of this post). In doing my research for this, I noted more companies, at least on their websites, clearly states their blue cheeses are gluten-free. Of course, you want to err on the side of caution, so verify, verify, verify!

  • Alouette Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • Athenos
  • BelGioso (per website)
  • Boar’s Head
  • Cabot
  • Clemson
  • Crystal Farms Gorgonzola
  • Dutch Farms (per website)
  • King’s Choice
  • Litehouse Blue Cheese Crumbles (per website)
  • Marin French Cheese Factory
  • Montforte
  • Organic Valley Blue Cheese Crumbles (per website)
  • Paladin MontSalvat
  • Pt. Reyes (per website)
  • Rogue Creamery Blue Cheeses (per website)
  • Roquefort Papillon
  • Rosenborg (per website)
  • St. Benoit
  • Whole Creamery Blue Cheese Crumbles

The following brands of blue cheese are not gluten-free, as of this writing:

  • Saga
  • Sargento Blue Cheese
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7 thoughts on “Blue Cheese Blues: The Gluten-Free Controversy”

  1. Just a comment…I’m an absolute blue cheese lover and also gluten intolerant (after years of searching for the problem, have known for about 3). So this is still a leaning process. Had some Roquefort and again, such a reaction that it finally drove me to a Web search. What I’m discovering is stunning me, in two ways: it never even occurred to me that this delicious treat would be off limit for me AND the debate as to whether or not there is enough traces of gluten to cause a reaction. I can tell you, as far as I’m concerned ,no questions. There are more than enough. So surprised by this I checked with a celiac friend who confirmed, she reacts strongly to quite a few blues so avoids them altogether.

  2. thanks for the comment, nat. every body (and everybody) is different, and it continually amazes me how food impacts our bodies. i am a firm believer in the “if it hurts, don’t do it” philosophy. yeah, blue cheese is tasty, but it’s not worth it for you. at least you know this about your body — and you’re smart enough to avoid blue cheeses.

  3. Awesome information! I had absolutely no idea that blue cheese may contain gluten till I saw it on Red Robins’ allergen info. Guten free for 4 years and still learning!

  4. I have reacted to blue cheese some years back but haven’t had a problem lately. Some newly diagnosed celiacs may be reacting to lactose as lactose intolerance is common in celiacs until their gut has time to heal.

  5. After just discovering that I have celiac, I am so glad to find this article. I am learning so much with this.

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