It's time to celebrate spring, and that means outdoor barbecues, veggie hors d'oeuvres, a little white wine and some cool, creamy cheese platters. But be careful. Cheese is one of the most notorious causes of halitosis. In fact, barring specialty breath fresheners, virtually nothing can erase the odor of a particularly pungent French cheese.
And if you think that we're unfairly picking on the cheesemakers of France, wait until you get a load of this: Recently, a team of French and British scientists released a list of the world's smelliest cheeses - and of the top 10, all originated in France.
It's not much of a surprise, really. The République Française is known for its creamy, complex, halitosis-inducing cheeses. As cheese expert Sally Clarke told Medical News Today, "France has a huge selection of weird and wonderful whiffy cheeses, and their smell often disguises a delicate, subtle flavor that has to be tried to be believed."
For the study, researchers from Cranfield University used their noses to sniff out the smelliest cheeses on Earth (and, presumably, the ones that cause the worst bad breath). The winner, hands down, was Vieux Boulogne, a cow's milk cheese made with a rind that is soaked in beer.
Second and third place went to Pont l'Eveque (which can stain an entire fridge with its scent) and Camembert (often affectionately called "God's Feet"). Other honorable mentions went to varieties like Munster, Brie, Roquefort and Epoisses de Bourgogne, a brandy-washed cheese so stinky that it's banned on public transportation in France.
Why is this type of food such a reliable cause of halitosis? And why does it often smell like foot odor? Scientists figured it out long ago, and it has to do with the bacteria used to make cheese.
In 1996, a group of Dutch researchers from Wageningen Agricultural University investigated a curious fact - namely, that fine cheeses, while tasty, often smell like sweaty feet. They discovered that a bacterium that is used to ripen a particularly odiferous Dutch cheese (the notorious Limburger) can also be found on human skin and in sweat, particularly on the feet.
This accounts for why the people of the Netherlands call foot stink tenenkaas, which literally translates to "toes-cheese." One wonders if they have a word for cheese-related bad breath...