Here’s an excerpt from a story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:
“…Slow Food warrior Carlo Petrini has thrown his weight behind the campaign to allow raw milk cheese to be made in Australia.
Here for the Sydney International Food Festival, he urged a relaxation of the tough rules, saying the local industry is being left behind.
The man who defended Rome’s Spanish Steps against the presence of McDonald’s in the 1980s, and founded Slow Food, believes a consumer campaign would result in change. His followers in Australia are drawing up battle plans and promise a campaign to tear up the restrictions.
”We are being left behind by the rest of the planet,” local Slow Food campaign co-ordinator Michael Croft says.
Petrini added the US is ahead of Australia, noting ”some nice cheeses” are being made there since bans on raw milk usage in half the US states were lifted during the past decade.
Many artisan cheeses sold in Europe are made from raw milk but calls to allow it here for soft cheeses have always fallen on deaf ears.
Australian regulations are under review and the recommendations are highly anticipated.
Petrini’s supporters and some cheesemakers are likely to be disappointed.
Australian food regulators are proposing to maintain their tough stance. More than that, they will propose the states are stripped of their current power to make their own rules over selling unpasteurised milk for consumption by humans.
Raw milk cheese is made from milk that has not been subjected to pasteurisation or an equivalent process to remove bacteria that can cause listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis. Just how high the risk is and how much flavour is lost through pasteurisation is a long debate well argued during the past few years.
Lydia Buchtmann is the spokeswoman for Food Standards Australia, which draws up the regulations. Buchtmann says assessing the dangers of unpasteurised milk to Australian consumers is difficult because there is not much of it around.
During the past 10 years, fewer than 10 people have fallen ill from drinking raw milk on farms, Buchtmann says.
She likens the argument to that for polio prevention. Although the disease had been eradicated in Australia, that did not justify ending vaccination.
Imported raw milk cheese was banned from Australia in 1996 with the introduction of a national food authority. Exemptions have since crept in.
About 600 tonnes of unpasteurised cheese is imported each year: emmentaler, gruyere and sbrinz from Switzerland; parmigiano-reggiano, grana padano, pecorino romano, asiago and montasio from Italy; and, in 2004, roquefort from France…”