FDA and Health Canada going after raw milk cheeses with much-touted survey?

How about that, Canadians get a voice in American federal decision making. But really we’re a separate country, aren’t we? Click image above to go to this page where you can comment.

Remember a few days ago we wrote about that article from the Ontario Farmer about how the FDA and Health Canada were seeking public input on raw milk policy? Well it seems that what they were really on about was soft raw milk cheeses. And yes, it does seem that that Health Canada is taking their comments via the FDA site (see image above), although no one at Health Canada’s media relations office ever got back to us on it.

But the heading on the page does mention Health Canada. As well, the last time we checked, the web site for taking comments still seemed to be not functioning. Update — page seems to be there now at http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2012-N-1182-0001

David Gumpert has invested some time in studying the posted documents and has published an analysis of the situation on his The Complete Patient blog:

“(I have spent much of the last week reading a 189-page report issued jointly by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada, with the dry title, “Joint FDA/Health Canada Quantitative Assessment of the Risk of Listeriosis from Soft-Ripened Cheese Consumption in the United States and Canada”. The reading is as dry as the title suggests. It’s full of technical statistical and research terminology, terms like “risk characterization,” “sensitivity analysis,” “mitigation,” “rank correlation,” and on and on. What that meant was that I had to read everything two, three, and four times before I could begin to make sense of it. But the more I read, the more upset I became, because I realized this is a very important document, one that could have a huge effect on food availability. If the authors of this report are successful in accomplishing what they want to accomplish with brie and camembert cheeses, you can be sure they will continue on to other kinds of cheese, and then other entire categories of food products, in their endless search for supposedly serious pathogen dangers. Equally troubling, the FDA considers this report “science based and transparent,” when it is anything but. I wrote the following analysis to try to get my thoughts down in an orderly way. I encourage you, after you’ve read my assessment, to try your own hand at reading the report, or at least the summary, and then to take the opportunity the FDA is offering to provide comments, and let the agency know in no uncertain terms what you think about this particular piece of literature. )

Nearly 15 years ago, a business book came out with the strange title, Who Moved My Cheese?

It was the story of mice in search of cheese that had disappeared, a parable about how people need to prepare for change, in their business and personal lives, and it became a huge best seller.

The parable may be playing out literally in real life before too long for raw milk soft cheese, if regulators in the U.S. and Canada have their way. A newly released 189-page report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada concludes that there is “a 50- to 160-fold increase in the risk of listeriosis from a serving of soft-ripened raw-milk cheese, compared with cheese made from pasteurized milk.” As a result, the regulators suggest they want to see raw milk cheeses like camembert and brie either subject to unprecedented testing, processing similar to pasteurization, or else banned completely. I should note they also offer the option of doing away with the 60-day aging requirement for cheese, as a possible way to reduce the time pathogens have to multiply in the cheese, but it’s offered as kind of a straw man, since it “does not consider the effect of removing the regulation on the risk of illness from other pathogens…” (That risk assessment should be worth another few lengthy reports.)….”

More on The Complete Patient blog.

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