Forbes: FDA May Destroy American Artisan Cheese Industry
Forbes.com has published a really solid piece of reporting on the growing firestorm over the FDA “no cheese on wood” story. In the piece, Gregory McNeal makes some excellent arguments not just on why this could hurt cheesemakers, but more importantly, why the FDA action is deeply troubling from a political and regulatory perspective, and may even be legally without merit.
As he says:
“The regulation does not ban wood, in fact it doesn’t even mention wood. It mentions surfaces that must be “adequately cleanable” and “properly maintained.” Of course, the FDA is entitled to argue, as Metz did, that wooden boards can never be clean enough to conform with the regulation. But, there are two problems with this argument. The first is science, the second is law.”
It’s a long piece and I won’t try to summarize it, but it’s a must-read if you care about this issue.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. One bureaucrat within the FDA, without citing to any science, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States. Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.
The FDA’s decision will not only harm American cheese makers, but may also bring a halt to the importation of artisan cheeses from abroad as Canadian and European Union regulators have not imposed such draconian measures and still allow for the use of wood boards to age cheese. Rob Ralyea of Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, commenting on the FDA’s action noted “the great majority of cheeses imported to this country are in fact aged on wooden boards and some are required to be aged on wood by their standard of identity (Comte, Beaufort and Reblochon, to name a few). Therefore, it will be interesting to see how these specific cheeses will be dealt with when it comes to importation into the United States.”