Raw Deal?

What is the future of being able to legally make and sell raw milk cheeses in the wake of the new Federal Food Safety bill passed last December? Although there is nothing specific in the bill about new rules guiding its production, the New York Times has published an article speculating that new proposals from the FDA may alter the existing 60 day rule, perhaps significantly.

In that vein, Caitlin has learned through the Southeastern Cheesemakers Guild listserve that a recommendation from Dr. Cathy Donnelly (of the Vermont Institute of Artisanal Cheese) may be one of those being considered:

Mandatory pasteurization for bloomy rind, washed rind, Hispanic and Tomme style cheeses. 90 day aging above 35F for raw milk cheeses. Mandatory technical training for cheesemakers. Mandatory risk reduction plan. Mandatory pathogen testing for finished product.

I’m sure this will be a topic for conversation at the next MCG meeting, and probably in future meetings. But there’s no need to hold your tongue until then: post your comments on this topic here to begin the conversation.

Posted in News.

7 Comments

  1. I think we’d probably be up in arms a lot more about this, ourselves, if we didn’t have plans to go Grade A within the next few years. Having said that, though, I have been fully appreciative of living in a state where the sale of “unpasteurized” product is still legal. I think that is these regulations go through, it’s going to hurt a lot of small scale dairy farmers, not to mention that I think it will have absolutely zero effect on the health and safety of the public.

    I have some more comments, but I’m going to hold my tongue because I’m going to try to not get too political… ;^)

  2. http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/publishers-platform-60-day-rule-the-facts/

    this 10 page document has a lot of information about raw milk cheese. also wether or not you make raw milk cheese is irrelevant. the artisan cheese movement has come so far, (my god we are starting to ship cheese to europe now!) and one of the reasons is the(relative) FREEDOM that most cheesemakers have had in making choices about the kinds of cheeses they will produce and wether or not to pasteurize. that is what makes it interesting. remember how excited we get when we talk about our “experiments?” and sharing our christmas tommes? how much fun is it going to be if we all make the same cheese in the same way? don’t get me wrong i am all for safe cheese but my question is “why can raw milk cheeses be produced and consumed around the world but not here?”
    and this is my last comment.

  3. These are all great comments.

    In my mind, the issue isn’t whether cheese can be made safely with raw milk (we all prove that every day), the issue is how our regulators can help someone who can not or may not make safe cheese (regardless of how the milk is processed before cultures are added). Unfortunately regulators are hired by politicians, and politicians don’t know squat about how to make cheese, but they did learn in third grade that *ONLY* pasteurization makes milk safe…

    In an era when so many people are focused on eliminating ALL government, that means that politicians are less interested in hiring people who really know about cheese, and more interested in hiring fewer people to check boxes. That’s been our complaint with the Dept. of Ag these past few years, and unfortunately it doesn’t look like things will turn around soon.

  4. I hope raw milk cheese production will continue. One thought even if the FDA has a plan to ban raw milk cheese production there is no funding in place to enforce it. This buys time for us to continue our quest. It is unfortunate that companies like Sally Jackson Cheese have been in the news for recalls and ultimate shutdown and then subsequently paid tribute for fabulous cheese by others. The latter is an interesting take on bad habits. Most cheesemakers have good management practices and continuation of this through education is most important. The NY Times article had two excellent photos of sanitary cheesemaking unlike the Sally Jackson website photo.

  5. one more comment. i took a cheesemaking class one time in which one of the instructors hopped up and started a tirade about raw milk and how it was dangerous and would result in sickness and death. he went on for about 20 minutes. i immediately recognized him as the man i had seen outside that morning chain smoking cigarettes!!

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