If you’re squeamish, we apologize about today’s post. If you’re a bonafide science geek, then we welcome you to read one of the strangest stories the internet has to offer. We’re sure you know that cheese — one of the most delicious foods known to man — is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk. That’s just the first step of the artisan process, of course, but it can be gross if you think about it long enough. Where is this bacteria derived from, you may ask? Usually it comes from animal stomachs. But what if we told you it came from a human foot, belly button, or armpit? Would you still eat it?
Scientist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas debuted a series of cheeses made from human bacteria. We’ve all heard of the expression “toe cheese,” but this unusual experiment turns the words into a literal translation! Each cheese is crafted from a starter culture based on the skin of a different person. Each of the 11 cheese samples (on display in Dublin, Ireland) contains a unique set of microbes that yield a unique odor. The samples come from artist Olafur Eliasson, curator Hans Ulbrich Obrist, and chef Michael Pollan — and, yes, each cheese smells and tastes like the body odor of the donor.
According to Agapakis, “It’s no surprise that sometimes cheese odors and body odors are similar, but when we started working together we were surprised by how not only do cheese and smelly body parts like feet share similar odor molecules but also have similar microbial populations.”
Wait – Don’t Eat The Foot Bacteria Cheese!
“Nobody will eat these cheeses,” Agapakis explains, “but we hope that the cheese can inspire new conversations about our relationship to the body and to our bacteria. By making cheese directly from the microbes on the body, we want to highlight these bacterial connections, as well as to question and potentially expand the role of both odors and microbes in our lives.” It’s cheese to make you think — not cheese for eating. There, doesn’t that make you feel better?
Cheese Exhibit Creates Cognitive Dissonance
Cheese is good, but body odor is bad. It can be hard to wrap one’s mind around this exhibit. Yet, one can’t help but think about the diverse mix of “good” and “bad” bacteria thriving on our own bodies. What makes our body odor so incredibly pungent is the relentless activity of this busy bacteria — eating up sweat, procreating, excreting waste. There are so many microorganisms on the body that they can pile up over time, creating quite a stench.
We created the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer to help cut down on some of the bacterial clutter that accumulates in our footwear. You’ll still have to wash your feet daily, but at least you’ll know you’re not slipping your foot into a Petri-dish of microorganisms after your shower.