US – Cheese has been aged on wooden boards for hundreds of years in Europe, and in recent years, many cheese makers in the U.S. have worked on their recipes to develop delicious cheese aged in the traditional manner, and often at the same time, created award winning cheeses. Due to a recent ruling by the FDA banning the practice of using wood to age cheese in New York state, the cheese world is in an uproar.
According to Jeanne Carpenter, from Cheese Underground, “Monica Metz, Branch Chief of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's (CFSAN) Dairy and Egg Branch stated that the use of wood for cheese ripening or aging is considered an unsanitary practice by FDA, and a violation of FDA's current Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations.”
Ms. Carpenter also writes that the FDA could possibly ban the import of all cheese aged on wooden boards.
“Cornell University's Rob Ralyea says, ‘It stands to reason that if an importer is using wood boards, the FDA would keep these cheeses from reaching our borders until the cheese maker is in compliance. The European Union authorizes and allows the use of wood boards. Further, the great majority of cheeses imported to this country are in fact aged on wooden boards and some are required to be aged on wood by their standard of identity (Comte, Beaufort and Reblochon, to name a few). Therefore, it will be interesting to see how these specific cheeses will be dealt with when it comes to importation into the United States.’”
On Tuesday, 10 June, the FDA reconsidered their stringent ruling a bit according to The Big Story, “In a statement issued Tuesday, however, the FDA seemed to backtrack on the stance. It noted that it hasn't taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wood shelves. And while it said it has expressed concern about whether wood can be adequately cleaned, it added that it is ‘always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese.’"
“The FDA said it will engage with the artisanal cheese making community to determine whether certain types of cheese can be safely made by aging them on wood shelves.”
American cheese lovers can take a deep breath for now and hope that the FDA will rule in the favor of artisanal cheese makers continued use of wooden boards.
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