I love cheese. One of the great pleasures in going to France is the never-ending arrays of cheeses, made from all kinds of milk, cow, goat, and sheep. And happily for the Accidental Locavore, there are more and better local, artisanal cheeses. So reading that the FDA in its (warped) attempts to make us healthy and safe, while still kowtowing to big business, wants to ban raw milk cheeses, gets me really upset! Currently raw milk cheeses have to be aged for 60 days, that being a ruling from 1940 to prevent typhoid…know anyone who’s had typhoid recently? The ruling may extend that to 90 days, or ban raw milk cheeses all together, no one knows. I don’t know about you, but in my 50 plus years on this planet, I have never been sick from eating cheese. Raw oysters, yes, cheese never and I’ve probably eaten a lot more cheese than oysters (hmmm…might need to make up for that).
Why can’t we be trusted to act like adults in this matter? If you think eating raw milk cheese is going to do you harm, don’t eat it. According to an article in the New York Times, “In one outbreak, 38 people in five states became sick from raw milk gouda made by Bravo Farms of Traver, Calif., and sold through Costco. In another outbreak, eight people in four states were sickened by bacteria traced to soft cheeses made by Sally Jackson, a pioneering cheesemaker in Oroville, Wash.” The article goes on to say that investigators haven’t determined if it was the raw milk that was responsible for the outbreaks. But let’s get real here, two outbreaks involving 46 people. I’m sorry they were sick, however that’s hardly grounds for banning raw milk cheese. And who does it hurt? The little guys, of course, the artisanal cheese makers. “A very important and thriving section of the American agricultural scene is in danger of being compromised or put out of business if the 60-day minimum were to be raised or if raw milk cheeses were to be entirely outlawed,” said Liz Thorpe, a vice president of Murray’s Cheese, a Manhattan retailer where about half the cheese is made with raw milk. “ In the interest of research, I went down to Murray’s to scope out some of the cheeses that could be potentially affected, and came home with an amazing blue cheese from Rogue Creamery and the prize winning Pleasant Ridge Extra Aged from Uplands Cheese Company. What a shame it would be make these cheeses extinct.
What’s the big deal? Flavor. This from Artisanal’s website “This bacteria interacts with the milk, giving a greater, deeper flavor within the cheese. In the United States, the FDA restricts the distribution of raw (unpasteurized) milk cheeses aged less than 60 days. Recently, North American producers have seized the opportunity to create vibrant, nuanced and remarkable Raw Milk Cheeses.” If you’ve ever had a wonderful brie in France, all ripe and oozing, and tried to replicate that in this country, fuggedaboutit. Velveeta and processed American cheese slices probably have their place somewhere, but think of how much poorer we would be without glorious idiosyncratic raw milk cheeses from artisanal producers. And are we any healthier eating those processed slices? I don’t think so. What do you think? Do you eat raw milk cheese?