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Raw Milk Cheese Makers Look To FDA For Understanding

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “is currently conducting a risk analysis of the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes in foods like dairy products, deli meats and fresh produce, and has encouraged raw milk cheesemakers to contribute data to the study. Their conclusions could vindicate or signal the end of raw milk cheese production.”

So says Plenty Magazine on the Mother Nature Network.

From reading the article one is left with the impression that something called the Raw Milk Cheesemakers’ Association is on the brink of convincing FDA that raw milk cheese prepared properly is not a risk.

We know it is a risk and we doubt seriously if FDA is going to come down on the raw milk cheese is safe side.   Roll back seven weeks ago.   FDA sent its Plant and Dairy Food Safety director, John F. Sheehan, up to Congress to specifically address the raw milk issue.  “Raw milk should not be consumed by anyone, at any time, for any reason,” Sheehan told lawmakers.

In his 18-page prepared testimony, Sheehan specifically addressed the raw milk cheese issue. He said: “Pasteurization is required for all milk and milk products in final package form intended for direct human consumption which move in interstate commerce. (21 CFR 1240.61)  The only exceptions to this requirement are for certain cheeses and those exceptions are no absolute but come with certain other requirements relative to the manner by which any raw milk cheese must be ripened. In promulgating this regulation, FDA made a number of findings relative to raw milk, including the following: “Raw milk, no matter how carefully produced, may be unsafe”

Plenty Magazine explains the status quo this way: “The laws governing American raw milk cheese production, which stipulate that any cheese intended for eating before it is 60 days old must be pasteurized, were implemented in 1949 in the belief that only aged, raw milk cheeses were suitable for consumption. Since then, the FDA has repeatedly proposed banning all raw milk products, including aged cheeses, amid lingering fears that they’re inherently more dangerous than their pasteurized counterparts.”

Sheehan’s testimony before the Health & Government Operations Committee can be found here.

The Plenty Magazine story in the Mother Nature Network is here.  It includes a list of places to buy aged raw milk cheese now (before it is outlawed?).