Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Feb 5, 2011 08:48 AM

Raw Milk Cheesemakers Fret Over Possible New Rules

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I found the choice of the word "fret" offensive in this article. Raw milk cheeses cannot be made any other way. and to restrict their production is to destroy them. "Fret?" that's an insult to the cheesemakers. Needless to say, they are more than just upset over these projections.

    20 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune

      I agree with you--"fret" is a poor choice of word for this headline.

      Wrt the original article, I understand the need for safety (and for government overseeing that safety) BUT if cheese is clearly labeled "raw milk" (as most, if not all, are), surely we could allow the consumer to determine whether or not he/she decides to take the risk. I enjoy raw milk cheeses and I willingly take the chance that it could potentially be dangerous. Why not just a warning label, like those on cigarettes or alcohol. Seems to me that the possible danger is fairly small anyway. Good gawd, why do people expect life to be risk-free?

      1. re: nofunlatte

        Clearly the FDA favors an outright ban over paying for an expansion of its inspection machinery. Are small producers willing/able to protect themselves from litigious consumers in the event of bacterial contamination? I'm not so sure the popular inclination to libertarianism works when it comes to food safety.

        1. re: Kagemusha

          Ridiculous. This is just another example of the over-reach of government. I do NOT want the government to make my consumption choices for me.

          Ultimately, the raw milk versus pasteurized milk cheese debate is about infection and contamination control. Major outbreaks of food borne illness can be carried by pasteurized milk which has been contaminated by the manufacturing process just as easily as they can by raw milk.

          1. re: flourgirl

            "I do NOT want the government to make my consumption choices for me."

            But would you sue "the government" for not protecting you?

            1. re: Kagemusha

              As a matter of fact, I think the country has been over-run with attorneys, people have been brainwashed into believing that it's ALWAYS someone's fault and that everytime something bad happens, SOMEONE MUST PAY. Our overly litigious society is destroying our way of life and severely reducing our freedoms and freedom of choice, as this article illustrates quite well. And I think it sucks.

              1. re: flourgirl

                Freedom to suffer from listeria and E. coli? OK... That's a "way of life" I'm happy to avoid.

                1. re: Kagemusha

                  And that should be your choice. But YOU shouldn't get to make the calls for ME. If I want to take my chances eating raw milk cheeses, I should be able to. And I don't want our nanny government telling me I can't either.

                  1. re: flourgirl

                    Gee, I'm partial to my "nanny state." Hope you can afford a touch of E. coli.

                    1. re: Kagemusha

                      Aren't you from Canada? You have plenty of raw milk cheese there. Why should the USA be any different?

                      1. re: sedimental

                        Why? Because you don't have the Canada Food Inspection Agency--yet another aspect of our nanny state, eh? Raw milk cheeses are fine--provided you're willing, as we are, to pay,through taxes(gasp), for an inspection grid that monitors quality along the production chain. Plainly, the FDA opted for a ban since paying for more inspection/monitoring was politically unpopular. Just depends on the kind of society you want but you get what you pay for.

                        1. re: Kagemusha

                          (because the data's all in one place - check the footnotes if you're doubtful


                          US: 76 million cases of foodborne illness from 1996-1998 (out of a population of 272m - we'll call it 25m cases per year, so about 9% of the population had fbi at some point during that 2-year period) with a hospitalization rate of 111 per 100,000 inhabitants. Mortality rate: 1.7 per 100,000 inhabitants (this is the country that blocks raw-milk cheeses, so they're not getting sick from the cheese!)

                          France: 750,000 cases during the same time period (population 58m, so about 1.2%), with 24 hospitalized per 100,000 inhabitants (one-third that of the US!) and a mortality rate of 0.9 -- that's less than one person in 100,000. (Treasures their raw-milk cheeses, with a solid belief that raw-milk cheeses with living cultures boosts one's immune system)


                          "Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada estimate that every year between 11 and 13 million Canadians suffer from illnesses caused by foodborne bacteria. "

                          Couldn't find the hospitalization or mortality rates -- what's Canada got to hide? -- but with 30 million people, that's a whopping 30% that are diagnosed with some sort of foodborne illness. Allows some raw-milk cheeses (would be interesting to compare Quebec's data against the rest of the country, since Quebec allows much more raw-milk cheese)...but mostly not.

                          Wanna start in again on how raw-milk cheeses are unsafe and deadly?

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Any chance our provincial health care systems simply do a better reporting job? They likely amass data ranging from Dr.s office nausea+diarrhea visits to long-term care due to renal failure caused by E. coli.

                            "Wanna start in again on how raw-milk cheeses are unsafe and deadly?"

                            Cheese and dairy products are one of many vectors for bacterial infection. Processed meat products are probably a bigger problem here in light of recent recalls.

                            My point remains that the FDA is erring on the side of caution but can't/won't extend its inspection grid due to budgetary constraints. Cheese fans are pissed. I get that.

                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              yes, they must do a better reporting job...that's why the hospitalization and mortality rates were so easy to find, because surely they have nothing to hide!

                              but saying that oh, isn't it wonderful is just shortsighted.

                              And while I agree that cheese and dairy products are *possible* vectors (along with pig-ear snacks for dogs and reptiles as pets), saying that raw-milk cheese should be banned is just faulty logic. By the logic that you state, all ground beef and baloney should be banned LONG before raw-milk cheeses,..and THAT ain't gonna happen any day soon.

                              and the day that the FDA turns out anything that looks like rational conclusions based on actual data, rather than kneejerk reactions to public hype, speculation, and heavily influenced by food factory dollars, I might think about listening.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Folks, this thread is headed down the road of a debate with people picking apart each other's words rather than sharing information with each other in a friendly manner. We're going to ask that you let this sub-thread go.

                      2. re: Kagemusha

                        If you are seriously worried about contracting an e. coli infection, than you should pretty much stop eating anything except for - possibly - food you grow yourself. There have been e. coli contaminations in all kinds of foodways in the U.S. Lots of them.

                        And the U.S. was not founded on values related to a "nanny" kind of government. But too many people, like you, apparently, are so paralyzed with fear that you are willing to relinquish all of our freedoms to a "father figure" government that seems almost daily to slip further towards fascism. I'm sick of it.

                    2. re: Kagemusha

                      hardly. Millions of people around the world eat raw milk cheeses, and the incidence of listeria and e. coli is lower in a LOT of them than in the US.

                      There's a half-dozen kinds of cheese in my refrigerator right now, and most of it is raw-milk.

                      1. re: Kagemusha

                        So I am guessing that you are looking for Raw Chicken to also be outlawed?

                        1. re: DougRisk

                          Two orders of Chicken Sashimi for all my "friends" here!

                          1. re: Kagemusha

                            Of course, most people do choose to cook their Chicken. Granted, I am guessing that more than a few have undercooked, and eaten that undercooked chicken on occasion.

                            So, people should be outlawed from buying raw chicken, right?

                            I mean, it could kill you.

              2. re: nofunlatte

                I'm sure that the headline writer used "fret" because it's a short word. "Cheesemakers" is a long word, and there's only so much room on the headline.

            2. Do the FDA Nazis have an explanation for how French citizens manage to survive when their world is full of deadly unpasteurized dairy products?

              1. My other main observation is that the cheeses in question here were purchased at Costco. There are many things I go to Costco to purchase. Artisan cheese is DEFINITELY not one of them. It would not occur to me to buy something that time sensitive in a place meant for total mass production. In fact, the only food I ever would purchase there would be something like canned tomatoes.

                24 Replies
                1. re: ChefJune

                  Point taken, but I don't think the final outlet is really the problem as far as food safety. Yes, cheese like raw milk brie can grow more bacteria over time, even when stored properly. But, the larger question is whether the manufacturer is following proper methods in production (and whether they can afford the insurance, which is a whole other issue.) One of the manufacturers mentioned in the article was using unsanitary methods, while others who pasteurized their milk, weren't doing so adequately. It seems fairly obvious that our regulatory laws are antiquated as far as science is concerned, and in need of update. What I'm interested in is how often small producers will survive in the face of increased regulation, which while beneficial to the public, shouldn't put anyone out of business, IMO.

                  1. re: amyzan

                    FYI, Brie is NOT traditionally a raw milk cheese. But many other cheeses cannot be made from pasteurized milk. Are we to be deprived of all of them because Walmart or Costco stores artisan cheeses incorrectly?

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Yes, I know this, but again, I don't think the article pinpoints this as the problem. I would be interested to know if improper storage is the culprit, but I just haven't found info to that effect anywhere as of yet.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        Actually, all three bries, Brie de Meaux, Brie de Melun, and Coulommiers, are all made from raw milk. Newer products from the region such as Brillat-Savarin are made from both as are many industrial bries. But the original small production farm style bries are raw.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Since when is Brie not a raw-milk cheese? REAL Brie de Meaux or Brie de Melun (or any of the other half-dozen varieties of Brie that are made in the Brie region) -- not the pasteurized crud slapped in a box and gets sold for a markup just because it has the words "Brie" and "France" on the box.

                          In order for it to carry either of the AOCs set aside for Brie (Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun) it MUST be raw-milk. If it's pasteurized, it's just Brie and cannot carry an AOC.

                          (sorry, Deluca, we crossed the streams there)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            ... which brings up an interesting question ... would the US ban ALL raw milk cheeses? Here in Canada, our federal government considered this in the mid 90s when it decided that all cheese should be made from pasteurized milk and stored for 60 days or more. The ban would have extended to many imported cheeses, including Parmigiano-Reggiano! It was the outcry from consumers and producers that forced the government to "stop the madness" (and I suspect, to some degree, the government's inability to explain why cheeses such as Reggiano, which had been imported for ages, and consumed world-wide, would all of a sudden no longer be accessible).

                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                not talking about raw milk in my reference above

                                1. re: CocoTO

                                  But the argument for access to raw milk as a denied "right" here is consonant with this thread's issues.

                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                    The US allows raw-milk cheeses, by the way, so long as they've been aged for more than 60 days.

                        2. re: ChefJune

                          Hmm. I've bought maladorous crap from boutique cheese shops too cheap to pitch staledated stock. Costco assiduously monitors dates, far more so than indies with low turnover.

                          1. re: Kagemusha

                            then you don't know what to look for. If you paid for over-the-hill cheese, it's YOUR fault.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Right, and all small retailers are totally ethical and honest. Pull the other one.

                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                Of course not, but at Costco you have to do your own homework, and if so it works fine. At a good retail cheese store you are paying for someone to watch the product, the date on the product, and the best time to consume it. l have worked in 11 cheese stores in 5 countries, including your home Canada and have never seen anything other than ethical behavior, even when it really hurts the small store financially.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  Try Global Cheese in Toronto but I suspect exceptions wouldn't disprove your rule...

                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                    Come on Kagemusha! Global Cheese is notorious on Ontario's Board for having poor cheese habits ... don't paint the rest of our cheesemongers with that brush.

                                    1. re: CocoTO

                                      Recent Ontario threads on cheese shops suggest the list isn't short or limited to Global.

                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                        I've been following the threads and Global is the one that has the persistent reputation - not saying you can't get a "past due" cheese somewhere else, but not in a way that their entire reputation would be at risk

                                        1. re: CocoTO

                                          Global is indifferent to bad press. The fact we report bad experiences widely should wise up shop owners, not all of whom know there are lots of places to buy cheese around the GTA.

                                  2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    You're really standing here telling us that industrial cheese at Costco is somehow a healthier choice than something sold by a smaller store?


                                    If you make yourself an educated cheese consumer (indeed any kind of food product) basing your choices on something other than an expiration date, you wouldn't have this issue.

                                    Big companies are no more ethical than small ones.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Costco isn't in the cheese business, nor is any large grocery retailer. Low volume specialty stores haven't been dependable in terms of quality. That's been my takehome lesson in becoming an "educated cheese consumer." Cheese rip-offs are ubiquitous.

                                    2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      Certainly the vast majority of cheese shop owners act ethically, but there is also the issue of expertise. There has been a rapid increase in recent years in the number of cheese shops across the US and Canada. In some cases, well-meaning people without a sufficient background in cheese and without the knowledge or resources to train their staff adequately have opened shops or expanded their existing stores to carry high quality cheeses. That is why the American Cheese Society is in the process of creating a certification program for cheese professionals. Not everyone agrees that such a credential is needed, but there is clearly a perception in the industry that expansion has led to some problems. Even if this is true, there are many excellent cheesemongers who know how to recognize quality and properly care for the cheeses they sell. I find it difficult to believe that, in a city as large as Toronto, there is no one that fits that description.

                                      We shouldn't forget that the retailer is not the only party involved. Ethically, I've always been more concerned about the behavior of some distributors who engage in questionable practices--selling over-the-hill cheeses to retailers (especially those who have small accounts with them), assuming that retailers won't recognize differences in condition, charging for more weight than is sold, packing cheeses improperly on delivery trucks so that wheels are squashed or otherwise damaged in transit, yet arguing that retailers should accept them.

                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                        "the American Cheese Society is in the process of creating a certification program for cheese professionals"

                                        *cheers*whistles*jumps up and down*

                                        Never thought I'd hear that announcement...there is SO MUCH to cheese, it's nice to see that there's a way to get that knowledge and expertise recognized. Hope you're first in line, maestro.

                            2. I stopped reading after, "recalls and two multistate E. coli outbreaks that sickened nearly 50 people."

                              Really? We're getting worked up after 50 people got sick? I bet I could find something really stupid that KILLED 50 people. Heck, I'll guess right now that (way) over 50 died last year from choking on certain foods. So, naturally, we should only eat pureed foods! Go, Government!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ediblover

                                Exactly. That's exactly how ridiculous this is.

                                1. re: ediblover

                                  Yeah, it's interesting to me, too. The FDA is getting potentially more power of oversight on many fronts, when we've had much larger outbreaks of e. coli in our history from everything from spinach to fast food.

                                2. They didn't shut down the fast food restaurants when E. coli hit (and killed people). Hmmm...what makes this so different? It is not as if ALL unpasteurized products are contaminated- just like not all fast food restaurants burgers are E.coli infected.

                                  This is getting so ridiculous. I don't want tasteless, sterilized, processed, government approved food.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    The pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco industry is allowed to get away with whatever this ban is suppose to protect the public from by including a dense lawyerspeak pamphlet or sticker warning over every possible, real or imagined, side affect from consumption. My guess is raw milk groups simply don't have the money to buy the necessary political cachet to keep the FDA off their backs or working for them (as inspectors as other posters have mentioned) instead of erasing them as a inconvenient job responsibility.