Skip to comments.7 Reasons You Should Be Troubled by the FDA’s Cheese-Aging Regulations
Posted on 06/11/2014 6:12:37 PM PDT by nickcarraway
It's been a weird few days for people who love good cheese, particularly wheels of American farmstead cheese aged on wooden boards: Last week, it seemed as if the FDA had moved to ban aging cheese on wood, a practice almost as old as coagulated dairy itself and the production aspect that turns Comté into, well, Comté. New York's Department of Agriculture got curious as to why the agency had all of a sudden cited several producers for doing something New York and practically every other state permit, so the FDA replied it was simply enforcing long-standing policy, not doing anything new: Wood, being porous, "cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized," which sounds bad, and besides, Listeria outbreaks have plagued the cheese industry as recently as March.
If you're more of a Kraft Singles person, carry on; this affects you none whatsoever. But to the rest: The American Cheese Society, which represents artisans and bigger producers alike, is looking to keep affinaging the way it wants to, and the FDA, while it released more detailed information about its position yesterday, is still unsure about the practice. It reiterated that its policy isn't anything new, but again pointed out the subject of food-safe surfaces, the agency has "expressed concern about whether wood meets this requirement and has noted these concerns in inspectional findings." Now, it says, it will "engage with the artisanal cheese-making community to determine whether certain types of cheeses can safely be made by aging them on wooden shelving."
While the agency's position on aging cheese on wooden boards seems to be more clear, it's uncertain whether this will become an eventual focus of industrywide enforcement, or if, as one writer suggested, this particular dairy crisis originated with a letter written with regards to a specific case and everyone's just overreacting.
In any event, cheesemakers have now gotten 9000 percent more vocal on the subject, and many are now turning their attention to American farmstead cheeses and their foreign counterparts, which is kind of cool. If the rules were eventually enforced, here are seven reasons why it would be a huge deal.
1. The rule-tightening could apply to imported cheeses. Bid adieu to "the great majority" of foreign fromage, says Cornell's Rob Ralyea. Rob Kaufelt, owner of Murray's Cheese, tells Grub, "Comté, Beaufort, and others like that would effectively disappear."
2. Small businesses would suffer. Artisans can't compete with factories, and wood aging is their competitive advantage. It "allows them to survive as small players in an agribusiness world," writes cheese pro Gordon Edgar. Moreover, adds Anne Saxelby, owner of Saxelby Cheese, the financial burden of converting someplace like Jasper Hill Farm that "has tons and tons of Cabot cheddar aging on shelves" would be "brutal."
3. Any actual ban would probably be illegal. The citation the FDA uses to defend its attack on wood Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, 110.40(a) has nary a mention of wood at all, and though it argues what's going on isn't "a ban," legal experts caution the inadvisability of a move by the FDA that shows disregard for "notice-and-comment rule-making." At Forbes, Greg McNeal invokes an Oliver Wendell Holmes line: "Those regulated by an administrative agency are entitled to 'know the rules by which the game will be played.'"
4. There's not much science backing the FDA up. This fight revolves around its contention that wood grows bad bacteria like Listeria, but critics who have centuries of tradition on their side counter that good bacteria, like what live in yogurt, are the point of wood aging. They're ready with studies showing the process is neutral at worst, beneficial at best. Says Saxelby: "There's more listeriosis from pasteurized cheese and deli meat than from wood-aged cheese."
5. Cheese aged on anything else tastes weird, comparatively speaking. "The thing about wood," Saxelby explains, "is it breathes. If you put something on a plastic or metal shelf versus a wood shelf, the stuff that sits on the plastic or metal shelf isn't going to be able to breath and isn't going to ripen properly."
6. The move would favor Big Cheese, where wood-aging is impracticable. "I'm not given to speculation about these kinds of theories, mind you, but some are saying it's maybe because the large producers have been losing market share against what we call 'the good stuff' these days," Kaufelt says, before clarifying: "Though I suspect it's more bureaucratic."
7. Finally, cheesemakers aren't dairy's Appalachian moonshiners. "We use strict testing and sanitary procedures," Kaufelt says. "It's been that way since the beginning, since we first worked with [the Department of Agriculture]. They're strict, and have to be." However, safe food, adds Saxelby, doesn't come "at the stake of the tried-and-true techniques we've used forever."
Just ask Eric Holder. He's one of them.
And we really like it and it's good for us.
Fundamentally becoming a third world nation one destroyed industry at a time.
America demands Justice for the Fallen of Benghazi!
They came for the cheesemakers, but I was not a cheesemaker, so I kept quiet ...
” Small businesses would suffer. Artisans can’t compete with factories, and wood aging is their competitive advantage.”
This is the reason its being pushed. They seek to control the entire food supply.
This needs to move up to #1 on the list...
I was living the dream! I was stripped to the waist, eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery!
My local small city (<100K) already lost a high quality jerky producer due to regulations. I hope we don’t also lose our local goat cheese (much more than chèvre style) producer.
Why is wood impractical for ‘big cheese?’ Are oak barrels impractical for ‘big whiskey?’
Bigger margin per unit?
The FDA is doing what every out of control bureaucracy in America is currently doing. It’s trying to control every single aspect of our lives to justify their existence. These agencies are basically a shadow government accountable to none.
This is when you have a Congress mainly concerned with being re-elected rather than governing. It’s far easier to hand power over to the unelected bureaucrats of this shadow government under the guise of “regulations” rather than passing laws after open debate that would require them to be accountable to their constituents.
Settle down Costanza.
we will become know as the VELVETTA among Nations!
The reason the FDA is doing this:
1. Somebody wants a payoff
2. Somebody got a payoff
Do these regulator idiots understand that cheese is basically spoiled milk?
Dude, to my understanding they don’t even let people sell cheese made from raw milk unless it’s aged for 60 days. They figure that the harmful bacteria can’t last that long. Or something. Supposedly that’s why our cheeses aren’t as good, because they try to make the stuff like Camembert that ages for 3 weeks or so with pasteurized milk which isn’t considered as making the best cheese. Or at least that’s what I have heard about it.
Nanny government sticking its nose in again.
Wood is more sanitary than plastic:
“There’s not much science backing the FDA up.”
There is never any science backint the FDA. They are minions of the Big Drug and Big Agriculture industries. They do what they are told by their ‘financiers’. And remember, the High Muckettymucks at the FDA are there because of a revolving door policy with Big Pharma.
They are glorified jobs programs with an affirmative action slant/ If you want Federal employ it helps to be gay, black, etc etc
Think of today's Federal Gov't as a vast hiring hall for useless eaters
Their job depends on over-regulating you and regulating you out of existence if it means a bonus or raise
who cut the cheese man
Fine cheese is an acquired taste.
Much like powerful hot sauce.
Or Asian fish sauce.
But the taste CAN be acquired.
And the appreciation crosses classes, at least in Europe.
Americans generally haven’t picked up on the art & science of it.
“They seek to control the entire food supply.”
Yep, that’s exactly what they are doing and it’s a step by step progression.
They are targeting the food “rich” people buy first.
They have also made moves, mainly in the form of comments so far, to target the food that people that don’t depend on “supermarkets” to buy.
Farmers markets, roadside produce stands, you pick your own, and other niche food producers.
Another BS “rule” I can violate with impunity.
Can’t wait to milk those dwarf goats!
Decisions made by people who were raised eating Captain Crunch or Fruit Loops for breakfast, and have never seen a farm, a winery, or aging cheese.
Their idea of good cheese is a box of Macaroni and Cheese, the paper bag of powder you melt in when the macaroni is done. They are first in line at the Hot Dog King. If the cheese comes on a pizza it must be good....anything else is too scary to try.
Government cheese, indeed.
“Their idea of good cheese is a box of Macaroni and Cheese, the paper bag of powder you melt in when the macaroni is done.”
I like the instant mac’n’cheese once in a while. But I like really good cheese once in a while too, and wish they would let people make it the best way for me to get and eat.
Cheese is a great discovery, and a sure sign of civilization, like the discovery of wine and beer, or the growing of rice.
It is controlled spoilage which acts a method of preserving food. The principle is that good, selected microbes keep out the others, and help prevent the total degradation of the food. Korean fermented kim-chi uses the same principle, and enabled the ancient Koreans to have a preserved source of Vitamin C all through the winter.
Good, smelly cheese is a delight. Artificial processed cheese (which I am ashamed to say is sometimes called American cheese), especially that coming in separately wrapped slices, is simply not the real thing.
Try Liederkranz from Wisconsin. Let it age for about four to six weeks after you buy it, until it starts softening and turning yellow. It is one of life’s great pleasures.
The FDA has annoumce it will work with Cheese makers to clarify the rules. This is being done thanks to harmful bacteria outbreaks like listeria. I did some research and the FDA has announced they aren’t citing people for having wooden curing boards.
Our cheese is fine, for now, be we should stay on this and make sure the rules get fixed for cheese makers
Bear with me. The Liederkranz ("wreath of song") I recall was made in Van Wert, OH -- in a plant that dated to around 1960. Prior to that, it had been made somewhere in New York state.
When Borden Foods bought the brand, they built the new plant in Ohio and transferred production there -- but, for some reason, couldn't duplicate the product. Eventually, they tried smearing the machinery and the walls with the old product made in New York -- then they locked up and left for the weekend.
When they cranked the operation back up on Monday, true Liederkranz was the result -- they had re-introduced the original bacteria into the equation.
Ah, memories of a fishing boat, on a 30 A farm pond, a saltine cracker, a slice of onion, a smear of Liederkranz...and a cold beer. Heaven on earth, "wreath of song", indeed.
Perhaps Liederkranz has been sold again and moved to Wisconsin -- in which case they would've had to do the smear the new plant. I know I haven't seen any in the supermarket in several years...
Nobody question der Leader! Eat your Velveeta cheeze-stuff
and stop whining!
Okay, I’m troubled.
I like the real cheese...Homemade Mac n Cheese.
Oh yeah, that’s good too.
I absolutely LOVE Tilsit. My co-workers however are less than impressed when I bring a block in, as it (and I quote):
“Makes the lunchroom smell like a high-school locker room 9 weeks into the semester, and NOBODY has washed their strip!”
I told them that if they want to bring soups in that make me nauseous, turnabout is fair play.
I would say that the citations are probably the result of one person not fully understanding the regulations, and not the result of some FDA policy change.
There was a large listeriosis outbreak in 1988 which was traced to “Mexican-style” cheese being contaminated with raw milk. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM198809293191303 The outbreak had nothing to do with curing. Listeriosis in cheese is usually associated with the use of raw milk. It is also associated with soft cheeses. Aging a cheese past 60 days causes the listeria bacteria to die.
There would be reason to ban aging on wood platforms, if disease outbreaks could be traced back to the practice. But they have not.
I age my little cheeses on bamboo mats.
The FDA has already given US cheeses a disadvantage, flavor wise, by forcing us to use pasteurized milk for cheeses aged less than 60 days.
more and more people are buying the fancier cheeses....yes, we buy the brick cheese for mac and cheese, and when serving large numbers of people...but then we get the good stuff for ourselves....like Cougar Gold...or Dubliners...