The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) has filed comments urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not to place unnecessary burdens on producers of raw milk cheeses.
Raw milk cheeses, made from milk that has not been pasteurized, have been consumed for millennia and are prized worldwide for their rich, unique flavors. For example, under European law, the famous Parmigiano Reggiano can only bear that name if it is produced from raw milk.
In August, the FDA issued a notice inviting public comments on the topic of “potential intervention measures to reduce the risk of foodborne illness” from raw milk cheeses. “Unfortunately, the FDA is starting with an incorrect assumption, namely that more regulations would benefit consumers of raw milk cheeses,” stated Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and a cheesemaker herself. “But the government’s own data show that there have been very, very few outbreaks from raw milk cheeses produced under the current regulations. Imposing additional testing or lengthening the aging period would simply drive many artisan producers out of business and reduce consumer choices.”
As set out in WAPF’s comments to FDA, most of the outbreaks attributed to raw milk cheeses have actually come from fresh (unaged) cheeses, which it is illegal to sell in this country. New regulatory requirements would be futile in addressing the risks from fresh cheeses. The WAPF comments include an extensive review of the scientific literature on raw milk cheeses, including comparisons between the safety of raw milk cheeses and pasteurized milk cheeses.
“Cheese in general is a relatively low-risk product, and the majority of the foodborne illness outbreaks that do occur are caused by post-process contamination,” explained Ms. Fallon Morell. “The scientific studies show that the diverse community of microorganisms in raw milk cheese effectively limits the growth of pathogenic organisms, and thus post-process contamination is actually a greater risk in cheeses made from pasteurized milk.”
“All cheese makers should take reasonable measures to address food safety,” concluded Ms. Fallon Morell. “American raw milk cheese makers already comply with extensive regulations in order to produce this product, which thousands of consumers want. The science and CDC data are consistent with millennia of human experience: aged raw milk cheese is a safe, delicious, nutrient-dense food.”