Raw Milk Cheeses: Historical Overview, Current Regulations, and the Battle to Preserve Artisinal Cheesemaking
CitationRaw Milk Cheeses: Historical Overview, Current Regulations, and the Battle to Preserve Artisinal Cheesemaking (2005 Third Year Paper)
AbstractThe current law with regard to raw milk cheese can be summarized as follows: interstate sales cheese made with raw, un-aged milk are prohibited by federal law. Intra-state sale of raw milk cheese is not prohibited by federal law; each state may choose to permit or ban such sale. Federal regulations require that all milk used to produce cheese be pasteurized, or if used raw, the cheese must be aged a minimum of 60 days at 35 degrees Fahrenheit before coming to market. An examination of the historical circumstances under which these regulations were promulgated reveal that these regulations were set at the urging of large cheese producers at a time when demand for cheese began to increase just as there was a decline in the number of producers. Many manufacturers of raw milk cheese maintain that even if not aged sixty days, raw milk cheese presents less health risk than other legally permissible raw foods such as oysters and sushi. When the FDA appeared to be leaning towards banning all raw milk cheese regardless of its age, artisinal manufacturers and consumers organized the Cheese for Choice Coalition. At present the FDA does not appear poised to ban raw milk cheese. A black market in raw milk cheeses exists in the United States today in which is sold raw milk cheeses that have not been sufficiently or properly aged. The FDAâ€™s most recent health warnings, however, are directed to cheesemakers targeting Hispanic consumers with soft, queso-fresco style cheeses that can cause illnesses ranging from E. Coli to tuberculosis. The FDA has not addressed whether it can impose one set of regulations for artisinal cheeses from Vermont and a different more stringent set of rules for the homemade â€œbathtubâ€ cheeses in San Diego, but this will be one of the agencyâ€™s challenges if it should decide to change current regulations.
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