Your Cheese: What the FDA Really Wants With It

Think everyone loves artisanal cheeses? You may have to remove the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from that list. Since 2012, they’ve made it known they’re no fan of some aspects of artisanal cheese making.

The aspects in question are the wooden boards many cheesemakers use to age their cheeses. In 2012, an FDA inspection found Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that could be harmful, on the wooden boards used to age Gouda-style cheese of a New York City cheese company. The FDA found the bacterium again when they inspected in 2013, and ordered the company to halt production. Cheesemakers have been seeking clarity on the use of wooden boards from the FDA since.

Early in 2014, Monica Metz, chief of the dairy and egg branch at the FDA’s Office of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition issued a statement about the use of wooden boards to age cheese, saying the boards don’t conform to established good manufacturing standards because they cannot be “adequately cleaned and sanitized.”

The statement also said, “The porous structure of wood enables it to absorb and retain bacteria, therefore bacteria generally colonize not only the surface but also the inside layers of wood. They could be a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms in the finished products.”

This statement was met by concern from cheesemakers across the country, with some even heralding the FDA’s statement as the end of the American artisan cheese industry.

Earlier this month, the FDA attempted to clarify its position on wooden boards by saying Metz’ remarks were in response to questions, and were not an official statement from the FDA. In an update, the FDA reassured cheesemakers they were not out to ruin the artisanal cheese industry.

“To be clear, we have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese.”

Harmful bacteria contaminating cheeses is still a concern of the FDA’s but they don’t plan to do anything to end traditional cheese-making practices, nor do they intend to keep cheese off the plates of cheese lovers.

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75 comments

Cosmic Sky
Cosmic P.1 years ago

Chz shouldn't be going on in the first place. From where it begins n how it's old, expired milk with fungis added... totally sick

Nancy Gizuk
Nancy Gizuk1 years ago

But the FDA is always looking out for our best interests, no?

Rosa Caldwell
Rosa Caldwell2 years ago

I love all cheese. I don't think they make a cheese I don't like.

da c.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Debbie S.

The FDA is a joke and I agree with Kamia and the others comments on that. I really don't think the FDA is concerned about much these days, they threw the high quality food standards out the window with NAFTA and crap from China coming in. They allow GMO and yet they want us to think they are concerned for our safety?

Julie D.
Julie D.2 years ago

Seems to me that cheeses have been made this way for thousands of years, and so far the human race has survived just fine. I would much rather see the FDA spend more of their time and resources addressing the horrors of factory farmed animals, and taking on the issue of GMO foods.

Dale O.

So very true, Kamia T! Not to mention, cheese has been produced in this fashion for ...centuries? Somehow, most people managed to survive.

Cheese is a delight, especially cheese made the old fashioned way.

Marija Mohoric
Marija Mohoric2 years ago

i love cheese, tks for posting

june t.
june t.2 years ago

thanks, love cheese!

Lucy Schneider
Past Member 2 years ago

Congratulations, Kamia! Again, you struck gold in your comments about the FDA.