Wisconsin cheese makers worried about industry's future after FDA ruling

CREATED Jun 11, 2014

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MADISON - The Food and Drug Administration recently cited some cheese makers in New York for using wooden boards to age their products because it said the practice was unsanitary. 

 
"That seems to have blossomed into the entire industry suddenly becoming very concerned the FDA might make this a national effort or a national ruling and a national inspection effort," said John Umhoefer, the Executive Director of the WI Cheese Makers Association.
 
Cheese makers around the world have used wooden boards to give artisan cheeses unique flavors since the 1800s.
 
"People in the cheese industry are quite worried the FDA has gone a step beyond what's necessary here."
 
The boards are used to age certain French, Italian, and Swiss styles of cheese, including parmesan, gruyere, asiago, and limburger.
 
"Wooden boards are integral to the process.  They harbor the legendary bacteria that give limburger its special flavor," explained Umhoefer.
 
Umhoefer said he's not aware of any cases of contamination or illnesses being traced back to the boards. 
 
"It's just a sense here that regulators are regulating, when in fact, there hasn't been an issue."
 
Until they get more direction from the FDA, state regulators aren't changing their inspection process. 
 
"I believe the FDA needs to take a breath and look at research that's been done and perhaps take another look at it," said Umhoefer.