FDA reneges on ban for wooden cheese-ageing boards

Artisan cheesemakers in the US have convinced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider an enforcement action that banned the use of wood boards for ageing their products...

Artisan cheesemakers in the US have convinced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider an enforcement action that banned the use of wood boards for ageing their products.

A news release of 24 September from US legal firm Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren quotes the FDA as stating that it will now: 'Engage with the artisanal cheese-making community to determine whether certain types of cheeses can safely be made by ageing them on wooden shelving.'

A nationwide prohibition was mooted after Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese, a cheesemaker in New York state, was banned from using wooden ageing boards in 2012 after listeria was detected on them.

The FDA stated that they violated section 110.40(a) of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This requires that utensils and surfaces used in food preparation can be cleaned adequately - the regulator argued this was impossible, because the porous structure of wood could harbour bacteria.

The prospect of a prohibition based on the Finger Lakes case prompted lobbying by the cheesemakers, for whom wood-ageing is a long established and widely used technique for adding flavour. A ban would have implications for other food products too.

Reinhart's Jennifer Naeger and Andrew Price warn that, though the FDA has now drawn back from its initial strict interpretation, 'changes may be lurking in the future, and all cheesemakers should be on the lookout for new developments in this area.'

This article comes from Food Contact World, which provides exclusive news and analysis on developments in food contact material , markets, and technologies.

Get a sample issue of Food Contact World