Over the summer, the artisanal cheesemaking industry faced a serious issue from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that would ban century-old practices that age cheese on wooden boards and shelving, Forbes reported.
FDA reclaims previous statement
The statement from the FDA caused a flurry of responses and written concerns from the cheese industry since it could severely alter many businesses that use the old method to age its products, the source stated. However, the cheesemaking altercation got the FDA to clarify that they were not banning wooden shelving for cheese aging.
"The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA requirement in effect that addresses this issue," the report stated. "Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves."
Gordon Edgar, an artisanal cheese expert, explained the early comment from FDA scared American cheesemakers, but luckily for this ruling, it gained enough attention to attract public awareness, Forbes reported.
The worry was more so about the public health and the equipment used in the cheese making process. Equipment like stainless steel shell and tube heat exchangers are preferred because they are easy to clean and are highly efficient at keeping cheese products safe.
Keeping equipment clean
The FDA explained its concerns about wooden materials and the ability to collect bacteria since the boards could not be properly cleaned or sanitized. Bacteria can colonize in wooden surfaces, but many cheesemakers will explain that the process has been followed for ages without causing serious bacteria outbreaks when done correctly.
Necessary heat in production
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explained in its energy requirements report for milk processing that in the production of cheese, yogurt and milk packaging, shell and tube heat exchangers are an integral requirement to stabilize different temperatures. The FAO stated that heating temperatures can run at different degrees for condensed milk, cheese and yogurt.
To comply with FDA guidelines, cheese producers need to ensure that their processing and ageing equipment is both sanitary and efficient. Sanitary stainless steel equipment provides assurance of both.