Cheese made from human bacteria is ‘for thinking,’ not eating

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Think some cheese smells like feet? Well, now there’s a cheese that has more than just that foot odor – it’s actually made from human foot bacteria.

An exhibit in Dublin features cheese made by taking swabs of human bacteria – from armpits, mouths, in between toes and in belly buttons – and adding milk to it. Biologist Christina Agapakis worked with odor artist Sissel Tolaas to create the cheeses, which they hope will challenge how we think about bacteria.

“Cheese is actually a really great model organism for us to think about good and bad bacteria but also good and bad smells,” Agapakis said at a presentation at the PopTech conference last month.


She noted that there are similar species of bacteria living in cheese and in between our toes.

“Can knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food improve tolerance of the bacteria on our bodies?” Agapakis and Tolaas ask in their statement about the “Selfmade” exhibit.

The exhibit’s series of “microbial sketches” – which includes cheese made from bacteria of well-known figures like food writer Michael Pollan and artist Olafur Eliasson – smell of the body odor of the donor, Agapakis told the magazine Dezeen.

So the cheese is made from humans, by humans, but not for humans – to consume, at least.

“This isn’t cheese for eating,” Agapakis said at PopTech. “This is cheese for thinking.”

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