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'Human cheese' created using bacteria from Professor Green, Heston Blumenthal and more

The i logo The i 07/05/2019 Katie Grant
a man holding a microphone © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

A group of celebrities including Professor Green and Heston Blumenthal have shown they are full of the milk of human kindness by allowing researchers to produce a selection of “unique” cheeses made with bacteria taken from their own skin.

Human cheese

a person standing posing for the camera © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

The strong-stomached research team also enlisted the help of Blur bassist Alex James, former Great British Bake Off contestant and food writer Ruby Tandoh and Madness frontman Suggs to participate in its “human cheese” endeavour.

Named "Selfmade", the project began with biodesigner Helene Steiner and her team taking samples of skin from areas including the armpits, toes, belly button and nostrils of their high-profile subjects.

Unique microbial portraits

a person standing next to a fireplace © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd The team grew starter cultures that were then combined with fresh, pasteurized milk to create five human cheeses.

They have been maturing for months, and the result is five “unique microbial portraits” in the form of  a semi-hard Comté cheese courtesy of Blumenthal, a hard crumbly Cheshire cheese (James), a creamy mozzarella (Professor Green), a Stilton (Tandoh) and a Cheddar (Suggs).

Body odours

a man with his mouth open © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd The cheeses will be showcased in a refrigerated display at a forthcoming exhibition, Food: Bigger than the Plate, at the V&A in London, alongside dozens of other projects exploring the future of food.

“Making ‘human cheese’ is a fascinating journey into the world of microbes, from their culinary importance to the vital role they play in how our bodies work,” said exhibition co-curator Catherine Flood.

“Many of the microbes involved in cheesemaking bear a close relationship to those found on human skin,” Ms Flood noted.

“The similarities between cheese aromas and body odours are no coincidence. Whether we find these odours disgusting or delicious has a great deal to do with context and psychology.”

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Are they edible?

Ms Flood said she hoped the cheeses, which will be available to view when the exhibition opens on 18 May, would help to challenge the negative views many hold about the microbial world.

Adventurous gourmands keen to tuck into a hunk of Suggs Cheddar will have to wait until the team has determined that its human cheeses are safe to eat, though.

“The cheeses are being sequenced in the lab to find out exactly what species of bacteria they contain and whether they are edible in terms of food safety,” Ms Flood said.

One person who won’t be raising a stink if the cheeses do prove inedible is Professor Green. The musician admitted he “can’t stand the smell of cheese” and insisted that his samples be used to produce mozzarella as it is the only cheese he eats.

@kt_grant

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