Why Does Swiss Cheese Smell Like Feet? (Revealed!)

Swiss cheese smells like feet due to butyric acid and bacteria like Brevibacterium linens, which are linked to foot odor. These elements are introduced during cheesemaking for flavor, producing a distinct smell similar to sweaty feet but do not indicate spoilage.

What is the Background of Swiss Cheese?

You have to admit, it’s not a pleasant comparison when Swiss cheese smells like feet!

But it can’t be denied, and some people actively seek out more pungent cheeses.

I’m kind of in the middle and consider that a bland cheese with little odor is only suitable for cooking.

To understand why Swiss cheese has this peculiar smell, we need to look at its background and how it’s made. 

And I am talking about real Swiss cheese, Emmental, not the American variety. 

It is said to have originated in West Central Switzerland in the 14th century and was pretty much just a local cheese for several hundred years.

It was not until the early 19th century that it was marketed outside the country.

Traditionally, it is made from cow’s milk and allowed to age for several months.

The aging process increases the number of holes, or “eyes,” as they are correctly known.

During the cheesemaking process, specific bacteria are added to the milk, which is then heated. 

This helps the milk to form curds, but the bacteria produce compounds such as butyric acid, propionic acid, and isovaleric acid.

And it is these acids that give the cheese its sweaty feet odor!

What Causes the Smell of Swiss Cheese?

Let’s get a little more in-depth into the science behind the smell of Swiss cheese!

Essentially, you can blame the bacteria that are added.

Cheesemakers add the bacteria to encourage coagulation in the milk to form the solidity of the cheese.

And whether you like it or not, the bacteria add to the complexity of the flavor of Swiss cheese.

Our sense of smell is connected to our tastebuds, completing the whole experience of eating.

If Swiss cheese didn’t have its peculiar odor, it would not taste the same. 

The acids that create the unpleasantness are a by-product of the bacteria consuming the lactose. 

Two types of bacteria, in particular, are preferred, and these are Brevibacterium linens and propionibacteria.

They produce three acids known as butyric, propionic, and isovaleric.

And these acids all have a smell of body odor.

Butyric acid is found in the human colon, and the Brevibacterium bacteria live on our skin, especially between our toes! 

Some people also compare the smell to that of vomit.

I hope I am not putting you off your cheese!

If you have a particularly sensitive sense of smell, Swiss cheese may be a little overwhelming. 

Is It Safe to Eat Swiss Cheese That Smells Like Feet?

So, having established that the smell of Swiss cheese has been purposely introduced, can we assume it’s safe to eat?

The short answer is yes, it doesn’t indicate that the cheese has gone off.

It can indicate the authenticity of the cheese.

Some American cheeses, which are incorrectly called Swiss, can be quite mild and bland.

So, a stronger smell of feet shows the Swiss cheese has been prepared traditionally.

The odor adds to the flavor, and it should be appreciated!

If you are not that keen on it, you need to consume the cheese as soon as possible.

As the cheese ages further, the strength of the smell is likely to increase.

Does Cheese Smell Like Body Odor?

My Thoughts

Swiss cheese smells like feet due to bacteria

The bacteria are harmless and are purposely introduced during the cheesemaking process

Acids are produced by bacteria, all of which have an unpleasant smell

These same acids can be found in our colon and between our toes

The odor of feet can indicate a traditional, authentic Swiss cheese

I hope that if you have not tried Swiss cheese before, you take some time to appreciate why it needs to have that smell of feet!

You may also be interested to learn why Swiss cheese has holes in it!

How does the relationship between smell and flavor shape your culinary preferences?

Let us know in the comments below!

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