Along the lines of another recent blog–Is Raw Milk Really a Health Threat–the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now planning to go after cheesemakers who use raw milk. Under current rules, artisan cheesemakers must age their cheese for 60 days in order to kill harmful bacteria. The FDA wants to lengthen that time. However, cheesemakers say that will kill the production of many types of cheeses.
Aging cheeses allows the acids and salts in it to kill harmful bacteria. Advocates of longer aging say more time could kill more bacteria. Opponents cite studies that suggest older cheese is not necessarily safer. At least one study found that E. coli can survive in cheese for more than a year.
At Meadow Creek Dairy in southwest Virginia, cheesemaker Helen Feete and her daughter Kat produce Grayson, a supple, pungent cheese reminiscent of Italian taleggio that has won prizes from the American Cheese Society five years running. Coaxing the cheese and its pliant rind to survive the 60-day mark was the greatest challenge in creating it, says Kat Feete, and having to push it even further would send them back to the drawing board.
In related news, two towns in Maine (Sedgwick and Penobscot) have struck back by enacting a local ordinance freeing small-scale farmers from state and local regulations. This sounds good in theory, but, unfortunately, towns cannot pass laws superseding state and federal regulations. In fact, towns are created at the pleasure of the state government . . . so these towns had better tread lightly or else they could find themselves disbanded.