Saturday, November 7, 2009

Raw Milk Cheese

Today, as I strolled along the market shelves, trying desperately to find local goods- which is not easy to do at a market- I picked up some fresh raw milk cheddar cheese. Since one cannot open up each cheese and buy according to taste, I used my nose to detect the perfect dairy product. The raw milk cheese had the most beautiful oder- unlike any of the British or Irish imports, this California-made raw milk cheese boasted some of the best scent notes; nutty, fruity and deep- perfect for fruit or paired with ham and rustic home made bread. However, as I researched the raw milk cheese industry, I found that it has been on the FDA's naughty list for quite some time.
Here is an expert from the Raw Milk Cheese Association:
"About 10 years ago, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) proposed banning ALL raw milk cheeses, even those that were properly made and aged more than 60 days. This generated quite a bit of controversy, and eventually some representatives from the American Cheese Society (a trade organization for American cheese-makers) worked with Oldways (an educational association) to launch the "Cheese of Choice" coalition, which collected thousands of signatures to defend the existing milk regulations. One of the tactics used successfully by the coalition was to tell Americans that the new rules would prevent the importation of Roquefort and Parmigiano, both very popular cheeses here. In the meantime, a few scientists, including Dr. Cathy Donnelly and Dr. Paul Kindstedt, both at the University of Vermont, have conducted research to demonstrate the safety of raw milk cheese. They are doing this through both epidemiological analysis and direct experiments making raw milk cheese. It is very difficult to find scientists in the US who can conduct such independent research. Most universities receive scientific funding from large food companies and agribusiness, which are not interested in defending raw milk cheese."

"The Australian government recently published a report that virtually proves the ability of cheese producers to make raw milk cheese (Roquefort) equivalent in safety to pasteurized cheese."

"In the Seafood, Poultry and Meat industries the US government, through the USDA, requires the use of a system called HACCP to ensure the safety of their potentially dangerous products. This system is also used voluntarily by many food producers."

"For all these reasons, Slow Food USA has been working with raw milk cheese-makers to create a "Raw Milk Cheese Presidium" and also, this new organization, the “Raw Milk Cheese-makers’ Association” . The Presidium created a Protocol which encourages raw milk cheese producers to make humane, socially and environmentally responsible, high quality raw milk cheese. This Association will also provide a forum and some educational tools to help raw milk cheese producers make safe and high quality cheese."

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