Is Feta High in Histamine?

Histamine Intolerance is a rare medical condition occurs in about 1% of the population, and 80% are middle-aged.

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Here I have a bad news for all of you cheese lovers, most of the aged hard cheeses such as parmesan or cheddar are contaning a high amount of histamine.

For people with histamine intolerance, it’s better to avoid eating fermented, reheated or canned food as it leads to building up of histamine in the body.

Feta cheese has an average aging period of 3-6 months, so it’s no surprise that histamine is present.

To be exact, It is 4.99 mg/100g of histamine of Feta cheese (3). The acceptable food histamine level should be below 20 mg/100g (4). Feta is still in the range but could show early symptoms for people with high histamine sensitivity. That said, feta contains a medium level of histamine.

Other than that, semi-soft cheeses like blue cheese, gouda, and Swiss cheese were all found containing a good amount of histamine.

So, it’s advised to maintain a minimum intake or avoid eating them at all. In comparison, the unripened or fresh cheese, such as mozzarella and cream cheese, are having a relatively lower histamine level.

Hold on, are you sure it’s histamine? or just the common allergy? (see 5 reasons of feta allergy here).

The Histamine Buildup

Histamine plays a huge role in our body immune system and also serve as metabolism mediators in many biological pathways.

For normal people, our body can breakdown the excess histamine from food in two ways — one (mainly) is by the enzyme in the intestine called diamine oxidase (DAO), and secondly by histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) which present in most of our body tissue.

The reasons for these enzymes insufficiently or failed to action is not fully understood.

There are 5 main reasons affecting the histamine level in cheese:

  • The type of bacteria
  • pH and salt concentration
  • Aging time
  • Temperature
  • Handling procedure and contamination

Why Does Feta Have Histamine?

Traditionally, Feta will be stored in low temperature in an underground cave or cellar.

Then, it will be left for aging/ripening for months in wooden barrels. Some cheese may take years to age. This is an essential step to make cheese taste great and tangy.

But, not all histamine in cheese will be increased after a period of aging. Some don’t.

It all depends on the presence of histamine-producing bacteria.

Bacteria involves in producing the histamine includes Morganella morganiiPhotobacterium psychrotoleransPhotobacterium phosphoreumLactobacillus caseiKlebsiella pneumoniaeEnterobacter aerogenes, and Hafnia alvei (1).

Brands matter…

The improper storing (and fluctuation of) temperature actually plays an important role in the histamine level. All and all, it depends on the method of different cheesemakers.

A study (2) has been carried out to test the histamine level of the mold cheeses (lazur blue cheese, brie, camembert, and gorgonzola), where all stored under 72°F and 39°F for a few months.

And here’s the result

Cheese stored at 72°F gave a 2x higher histamine level than storing at 39°F. Particularly, gorgonzola reached more than 70 mg/100g of unsafe histamine level at the end of 42 days — long passed 40 mg/100g during the 28th day, and camembert was hitting 40 mg/100g in 112 days at 39°F.

It indicates that the longer you left the cheese in room temperature, the higher the histamine content.

So, what to do? If you don’t mind maybe you can switch it to the dairy-free substitutes of feta cheese.

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