Cheese Makers In Switzerland Fight Counterfeits With Secret Bacteria

(Rusty Clark)

(Rusty Clark)

Did you know that counterfeit Swiss cheese is a problem? It certainly is if you’re a cheesemaker in Switzerland. Industry experts recently estimated that as much as 10% of all Emmental cheese (that’s the pale yellow cheese with holes in it that Americans usually refer to as “Swiss” cheese) sold outside of Switzerland was fake: not made in Switzerland. How are the Swiss protecting their cheese industry, which has exports in the hundreds of millions of dollars? DNA tests.

Cheese DNA tests? Yes, cheese-makers in Switzerland are adding secret microbes to their products to prevent fakes. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that it took ten years for government scientists to find bacterial markers that would be detectable in the cheese after aging, but not change the texture or flavor in any way.

What it allows the government to do is perform spot checks on even the smallest slices of cheese found in grocery stores abroad. Yes, miscreants who make fake Emmental and gruyère are an actual problem. If the bacterial marker isn’t there, the cheese didn’t come from an approved producer that meets the stringent rules that cheesemakers must follow in order to use the traditional names.

How to Make Sure That’s Really Swiss Cheese [Bloomberg Businessweek]

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