Is raw milk cheese the next point of attack in the war against raw milk?

From a recent story on SlashFood blog by Max Shrem titled “Are raw milk cheeses safe?“:

Photo: kaight_ashbury, Flickr. Click image to go to Flickr page. Photo via Slash Food.com

“Are raw-milk cheeses healthful? Recent findings of Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes Listeria, in cheeses from Montesano, Washington’s Estrella Family Creamery in Missouri’s Morningland Dairy unequivocally suggest the contrary. Both dairies, which were inspected by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) officials within the past few months, are going to have a particularly hard time defending their raw-milk cheeses, especially since it’s just the latest raw-milk scare. Just last week, health officials found 25 E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to Bravo Farms’ raw-milk Gouda being sold at Costco stores in Colorado.

When it comes to raw-milk, the conflict between cheesemakers and the FDA is not new. Many cheesemakers view the FDA as an organization of government officials with little or no experience on dairies. Sunday, the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project released a series of cheesemakers’ reactions to the recent recalls of raw-milk cheese. One of them states, anonymously, of course, “I am concerned about any potential surprise investigations, because the investigators usually don’t have any experience with farms at all,” the cheesemaker told the Cheese Project. “The ones who recently visited here had never even been on a farm before; not a good thing in my opinion.” Apart from revealing the incompetence of the FDA, their anonymous responses indicate that the health risks do not involve raw-milk, on its own.
“It is definitely possible to make [raw-milk cheese] safely, but you need very good controls all the way through the process,” says another anonymous cheesemaker. “I think you would need to have your own milk supply and the raw-milk supply must be of top quality.” Unfortunately, the FDA is not offering any advice as to how the cheesemaking process needs to be perfected. 

Read it all on SlashFood.com

And now for a different perspective from David E. Gumpert, from a story titled “Who took your raw milk cheese? Could be the FDA.” on Grist.org:
“The government going after raw milk was something a lot of people could comfortably ignore — fringe-y kooks making a lot of noise about milk that could be dangerous. 

But start messing with people’s $22-per-pound raw-milk Camembert … well, now you’re dealing with serious food for more mainstream foodies.

Yet that’s what may be happening. The five-year-old war on raw milk appears to be expanding to include a war on raw cheese.

The American Cheese Society, with more than 1,200 members, mostly from the specialty cheese world, is warning its cheese producers to be on guard for a crackdown by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”In recent weeks the FDA has stepped up audit activity and inspections at creameries around the country,” the organization’s president, Christine Hyatt, wrote in a letter to members last week. She advised them to “be prepared for visits from inspectors, and follow careful internal systems to ensure the quality and safety of your products.”

She noted that the organization is currently surveying members to determine exactly how widespread the FDA visits are. But she noted that at its annual meeting last August, “the topic of regulatory activity was front and center.” ….”
“….A war on raw cheese would likely stir up a much bigger firestorm than the ongoing FDA assault against raw milk producers, which started in 2006 with several “sting” operations against dairy farmers in Ohio and Michigan. The effort spread to include California, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Georgia and, most recently, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. A number of court cases are pending, including a major case filed by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund challenging the FDA’s regulations prohibiting interstate shipments of raw milk; a federal judge earlier this year refused an FDA request to dismiss the case.The FDA’s challenge is that very likely many more people fancy raw cheese than raw milk. The raw milk market is estimated to include perhaps 1 or 2 million consumers, who tend to be considered fringe foodies by the public health community. 

But raw cheese has become an ever more popular delicacy among even mainstream foodies, and artisanal producers have sprung up in many states, with Vermont and California considered to be centers of production, using not just cow’s milk but sheep and goat milk as well.

The FDA has never been known to take such niceties as consumer taste and nutritional preferences into account in its approaches to such matters, though.

Right now, it seems clear the FDA is amassing “evidence” for the case it will be making in coming months that the 60-day rule on raw cheese is insufficient, and we’d be better off without any raw milk cheeses of any sort. Try spreading that on your French bread.”

Read it all on Grist.org

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