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Sweet Jesus: Whole Foods No Longer Getting Brillat-Savarin Due to FDA?!

Wife reports that the cheese lady at Whole Foods (here in SF) said that they are no longer getting Brillat-Savarin due to FDA constraints.

This. Sucks.

Does anyone know of any petition or activist efforts to stop this bureaucratic overreach?

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  1. Here's a notice from the FDA about importing soft Brie like French cheeses. The concern is over Listeria monocytogenes, and whether particular plants are adequately inspected.

    http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/...

      1. re: pikawicca

        A quick web search did not turn up another mention of this particular type being band.

      2. It will come out next week as Brillat-Savarin 365.

        1 Reply
        1. Can't really understand that because I just saw it in stop n shop yesterday. And by the way I'm giving away my best kept secret.... Brillat savarin at stop and shop and it's Waaaay under priced! Something like $20/wheel

          1. Murray's Cheese in Grand Central had a lot of Brillat Savarin on hand yesterday, so whatever the issue at Whole Foods, it's not the FDA.

            1. Well, Whole Foods has some peculiar policies. Like they don't sell live lobsters because killing them is cruel. ?????

              2 Replies
              1. re: ChefJune

                Ummm... And the entire meat counter is full of animals that died of natural causes??? What sense does that make..?

                1. re: ChefJune

                  It was not because killing them is cruel it because the tanks that they live in could not be created in a way that made housing them "humane".

                  http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/...

                  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/10/us/...

                  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/missi...

                2. When a particular soft French cheese is blocked from import by the FDA, it is likely because the plant has not been certified to be free of Listeria or because it is using raw milk. Pasteurization and listeria testing have been required for some time. Here is a copy of the "Green List" of approved cheeses:

                  http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/...

                  If you want to petition somebody, you should petition Whole Foods to order soft cheesrs only from certified plants, and petition your favorite cheesemaker to get certified.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: GH1618

                    You're all about the rules, and regulations aren't you GH? Always by the book, always in compliance with accepted norms and regulations.
                    I can respect you because I know where you stand, and why. I don't really agree too much of the time but you're good to have around here. If we all had the same opinions this place would get mighty boring.

                    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                      Rules are worth following when health and even life are at stake. Listeriosis causes nearly 300 deaths annually in the United States. This figure is down significantly since 1987, when pasteurization of milk used in soft cheeses was required by the FDA. Here is an excerpt from a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Listeria:

                      "Over time, many outbreaks have been linked to soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, and FDA and Health Canada§§ estimate that the risk for listeriosis from soft-ripened cheeses is 50 to 160 times higher per serving when the cheese is made with unpasteurized milk rather than pasteurized milk. Nonetheless, investigations described in this report and elsewhere also have implicated cheeses made from pasteurized milk (9–11). Pasteurization eliminates Listeria, but contamination can occur after pasteurization. Listeria grows in moist environments, even at refrigeration temperatures, so it can thrive when soft cheeses that support its growth are contaminated. In addition to using pasteurized milk, soft cheese–making facilities need to use strict sanitation and microbiologic monitoring."

                      1. re: GH1618

                        Sadly the Brillat-Savarin is on the FDA hit list beacuse ts made with raw milk. It was included in the list from the FDA website under this heading:

                        "The following list provides the names of French cheeses covered under the Import Alert. Examples of French Soft Cheeses Covered by Import Alert #12-03 (i.e. cheeses that are required to be made from pasteurized milk in order to enter the United States):"

                        I looked at the listeria Outbreaks on the CDC website. There are 4 listed since 2011.

                        http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks...

                        One for cantaloupe and 2 for domestic cheeses and one Italian cheese. One cheese plant in Delaware sounds like it was horrible and was rightfully shut down. Shady and sloppy producers who cut corners for safety should be hit hard. As far as I can determine none of the cheeses were made with raw milk or were French. As has been pointed out in a recent post by Melanie the French have mastered cheese-making safety techniques:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/985884

                        Let me be clear: Banning Brillat-Savarin will do NOTHING to prevent listeria outbreaks. It's over reaching bad policy.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          http://www.murrayscheese.com/brillat-...
                          says (their) Brillat Savarin is pasteurized.

                          Pasteurized or not, I agree that a $30/lb cheese is not going to produce an outbreak. The market in the USA isn't big enough.

                          1. re: paulj

                            According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an "outbreak" is the occurrence of more cases of disease than normally expected within a specific place or group of people over a given period of time. Large numbers are not implied by the term.

                        2. re: GH1618

                          How many of those cases causing death came from soft cheese?

                          1. re: GH1618

                            Personally I think the FDA is overly cautious. To the best of my knowledge there is no great epidemic of people getting sick in the EU from raw milk soft cheeses nor in countries that allow their import such as Canada.

                            In the grand scheme of things 300 people a year dying from Listeriosis in a country the size of the US is a fairly minor risk. Especially when you consider that not all cases of Listeriosis are linked to raw milk cheese or commercially produced foods. More people likely die every year from choking to death on Kraft singles than from European raw milk soft cheeses.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              I like raw milk cheese, and have had some spectacular ones, but once one has watched an infant delivered prematurely and die shortly thereafter from listeriosis- if the baby is even still alive at delivery- the rationale for the regulation becomes crystal clear.

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                That's a very tragic story. Was the causal agent determined?

                                The problem with the new rules is that they may end up doing more harm than good. For example humans who eat raw milk cheese will consume a diverse microbial flora that will help strengthen their immune systems against bad bugs like listeria. People on a completely sterile diet will be more susceptible to bad bugs. Secondly raw milk cheese itself had a diverse flora that makes it harder for bad bugs to gain a foothold. So the new rules may conceivably lead to more listeria not less.

                                The best approach is not the blanket ban on cheeses with above a certain level of harmless E. coli. That's what they are enforcing now. The best approach is to monitor the cheeses and if one has listeria (or Salmonella etc.) pull the lot.

                                I was just at the Cheeseboard in Berkley and asked about a raw Portuguese Sheeps milk cheese that I love. Sadly it's fallen victim to these new rules and is no longer available.

                                1. re: Ridge

                                  Was your cheese Azeitao or Serra, if so try to find Torta del Casar, also raw sheep and 'cheesed' with nettles instead of rennet.
                                  Very similar product from western Spain, in Extremedura and wonderful. May be easier to find.

                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    I believe the cheese I wanted was the Torta del Caesar. Very deeply flavored.

                                2. re: EWSflash

                                  Listeria can come from a number of sources, not just cheese.

                                  Most health authorities seem to reccomend pregnant women avoid soft cheese entirely regardless of source. Similarly they advise thoughly washing any fruits or vegetables served raw and heating all meat and seafood to a temprature that kills listeria.

                              2. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                "I don't really agree too much of the time but you're good to have around here."

                                You don't need to agree with the message, but you certainly have to a lot of respect the messenger and the manner in which his message is consistently presented.

                            2. Is this a CA specific restriction? It was at WF in nyc last week...

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: Ttrockwood

                                  The OP hasn't posted anything more. I think we can treat this as an unreliable 3rd hand report.

                                2. The nanny state,,,, sure raw milk cheese can make you very sick, even rarely very dead,,,,,,,, so can a\tons of things

                                  Just tell us and let us decide

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dontrunwithknives

                                    More nanny state news:
                                    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world...
                                    "French call for ban on 'free refills' of fizzy drinks"

                                  2. You are clearly upset, and deserve the opportunity to explain yourself, but saying 'government food-safety regulation sucks' is about as convincing as 'capitalism sucks'. Can we see some data please? I, for one, am impressed by the public health accomplishments of FDA and its local partners in municipal health departments. Because of their work, we have safer food and fewer food-related fatalities. Like all of us, of course, they will sometimes mis-calculate something, but there is process to insure that all relevant corrections are heard. If you have data they need, please share it with us.

                                    18 Replies
                                    1. re: mrnelso

                                      Have you looked around at how UNHEALTHY Americans are? The government turns a blind eye to the big corporations feeding us garbage and making us sick. Turns a blind eye to meat producers misusing antibiotics to fatten up animals to increase their profit margins. The government subsidizes production of unhealthy food and sugar. But by golly they are protecting us against the dangers of small artisanal cheese producers. I know I feel safe.

                                      1. re: Ridge

                                        Ridge, you expressed my feellings SO well!

                                        1. re: mrnelso

                                          My last response was flippant. No one wants to get food poisoning. But the issue is: are these banned cheeses causing outbreaks of food poisoning? The answer is no. If you research the topic, food poisoning mostly is caused by meat. Produce is second. When outbreaks have been caused by cheese it is mostly illegally imported soft cheese made in Mexico.The newly enforced guidelines, put into place in 2010 but only now starting to be enforced, are so stringent they ban cheeses that are perfectly safe and healthy to eat. This will not lead to fewer food related illnesses. Increased monitoring for actual pathogens makes more sense scientifically and would lead to fewer cases of food poisoning.

                                          The FDA is quick to pounce on things it deems as scientifically old fashioned and out of date, like raw milk cheese which humans have consumed for a very long time, while being quick to embrace fancy new-fangled things like artificial sweeteners whose long term effect on humans are unknown regardless of what industry sponsored animal feeding studies say. Turns out lots of studies are now showing FDA approved artificial sweeteners are bad for you:

                                          http://www.boston.com/health/2014/09/...

                                          So the FDA now allows us to eat these artificial sweeteners that are not good for human health but wants to prevent us from eating healthy Roquefort which has been shown to be good for human health:

                                          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23...

                                          I don't know about you but I will keep avoiding artificial sweeteners and keep eating Roquefort.

                                          My message to the FDA: It's time to rethink what you are doing.

                                          1. re: Ridge

                                            I assume you are not in one of the at-risk populations for listeria.

                                            http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/c...

                                            http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/...
                                            FDA import alert for multiple countries

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Obviously if someone is immunocompromised or very young or old there are foods they might want to avoid.

                                              If a cheese is found to be contaminated with listeria then take it off the shelf. But the issue we are discussing is related to new regulations about the levels of non-pathogenic and harmless E. coli allowed in cheese. Enforcement of these regulations means lots of completely safe cheeses will be banned.

                                              1. re: Ridge

                                                Interesting article here about the "microbiopolitics" of raw-milk cheese. http://web.mit.edu/paxson/www/article...

                                                1. re: Ridge

                                                  I agree with you on the one hand, but read my post above. It put things in an entirely different light for me.

                                                2. re: paulj

                                                  Interesting. the first document you linked carelessly referred to "Older Adults." Whatever the He!! that means. I know plenty of "older adults," including me who regularly eat raw milk cheeses with not deleterious effects.So who are they calling "Older?" To a 30-year-old, someone who's 50 is "old."...

                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                    Further down they link to a document for people 65 and older.
                                                    http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIlln...
                                                    There they focus on people with certain chronic conditions, or a weakened immune system (over 75).

                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      Report on 10 cases in Switzerland in 2005 from tomme cheese:

                                                      http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewA...
                                                      "Eight cases were in older immunocompromised patients who became ill with bacteraemia (three deaths), and two cases were in pregnant women who had septic abortion. .... Patient interviews quickly revealed that a locally made and distributed soft cheese (known as ‘tomme’) was the food source responsible for the outbreak."

                                                      Another 2005 European report:
                                                      http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewA...

                                                      http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewA...
                                                      2010 outbreak attributed to ‘Quargel’ cheese

                                                      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/bus...
                                                      2010 NYT article on dangers of listeria in artisan cheese making.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Interestingly, I read some of those linked articles and nowhere did it say that listeria in cheese was caused by raw milk. They all pointed to products being contaminated by listeria in the processing environment. So fears about raw milk are basically a red herring. As with most foodborne illness, the pathogens are introduced during processing (poor sanitation or sloppy handling), not inherent in the raw materials.

                                                  2. re: Ridge

                                                    Regarding the artificial sweeteners study:
                                                    " “It would be unfortunate if this data were to influence public policy,” says endocrinologist Stephen O’Rahilly, who heads the metabolic research laboratories at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom."
                                                    http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/20...

                                                    Reviewers also stress that this study is about saccharin, not artificial sweeteners in general. And that it has more to say about mice than humans.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      The study was published in the journal Nature which is very prestigious and well regarded. It's not just saccharin but includes other sweeter as well. Read the article. And it's one of several studies in the last 3 or 4 years showing artificial sweeteners mess with your metabolism. So these harmful metabolic effects have been shown in different independent studies. The FDA is doing nothing. But they go after artisan cheese. Could it be that artisan cheese makers don't have the lobbyists Coke and Pepsi do?

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          The thing is paulj that this is not the only study to show negative effects of artificial sweeteeners:

                                                          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                                          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                                          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                                          http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/artic...

                                                          And I might add the authors of the Nature paper did not set out to show negative effects of artificial sweeteners. The results they got were the opposite of what they were expecting.

                                                          1. re: Ridge

                                                            Does the FDA have authority to ban substances that in one way or other contribute to obesity? Artificial sweeteners because they don't help people stay away from real sweeteners? Real sweeteners? Foods high in fat?

                                                            Based on a quick glance at your links, I'd say the FDA does have grounds for restricting 'weight loss' claims for artificial sweeteners. But I don't see the grounds for banning the sweeteners themselves.

                                                3. FDA does not make the law---Congress makes the law, and FDA works under Congress and answers (constantly) to Congress (my husband was an FDA scientist for nearly 30 years and spent about half his time on the Hill answering to Congress, believe me). If certain standards are established by law, then FDA is mandated to enforce those standards. Doing the job you are legally committed to do is not bureaucratic overreach---it's professional responsibility. The activist effort you long for can best be accomplished by complaining to your Congressperson. However, Congress will hear not only from the cheese lobby, the grocery business, and individual cheese lovers, but also from advocates for the public health---its decisions must balance the needs of the entire community.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    Querencia-no doubt the FDA has a tough job and there are good people working there. I don't know anyone there and have no insight, perhaps your husband does, but it seems to me like something is not right at some level. They help guide congress to make the rules and they enforce the rules. Are they doing this in a scientifically sound and rational way? Not always. They have been super heavy handed with the artisan cheese issue. They can keep the population safe and allow people to enjoy raw milk cheese; the two are not as mutually exclusive as they make it seem. And they have gone into major unnecessary nanny state mode with other issues as well (not in the scope of this discussion to get into). But when to comes to other issues they act like climate change deniers. Aside from the artificial sweeteners issue discussed above, they seem in denial of all the science showing the negative effects of feeding livestock antibiotics. When will they stop acting like climate change deniers and evolution deniers and start acting like scientists and grow the balls to stand up to the big meat lobbyists?

                                                    You can see this article on the antibiotic issue:

                                                    http://blogs.wsj.com/pharmalot/2014/0...

                                                    From the article:

                                                    "“Waiting for an agency that has failed for over 40 years to take action on the overuse of antibiotics in livestock feed is not a wise strategy,” says Keep Antibiotics Working. “…There is little incentive for industry to adopt alternatives if it is cheaper and easier to carry on with routine use of antibiotics.”"

                                                  2. Personally I think the world would be a better place without the FDA.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Bottomless_Pit

                                                      Because tainted food and contaminated drugs are so very very good for us, and no one would ever deliberately market toxic, putrid, and disease-ridden things for profit.

                                                    2. I just noticed that Piedmont Grocery (Oakland, CA) has Brillat-Savarin.