The FDA announced recently that under the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, it won’t allow cheesemakers to use wooden planks to ripen or age cheese, because “Wooden shelves or boards cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized,” reports Slate.
“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,” FDA representative Monica Metz says in a statement. “The shelves or boards used for aging make direct contact with finished products; hence they could be a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms in the finished products.”
Many cheeses have long been aged this way, including European cheeses like Beaufort, Comté, Reblochon and even Parmigiano Reggiano. The crackdown could restrict access to those cheeses, as well as affect American-made cheeses using those same methods.
Of course, no one wants listeria or other foodborne bugs in their cheese. But it’s other bacteria that cheesemakers adore that live in well-maintained boards, along with some fungi. That particularly medley gives each cheese its unique flavor, which is the reason anyone eats cheese. Because mmm, that cheese flavor. I love you. Where am I?
As a result of the recent announcement, cheesemakers across the country have been circulating a petition to the White House, asking it to pay attention to these pressing cheese matters, saying it would “devastate the American craft cheese industry.”
The FDA’s Misguided War on Bacteria That Makes Cheese Taste Good [Slate.com] (Thanks, KC!)