Many artisanal and smaller cheesemakers were up in arms this week over a January 2014 letter from the Food and Drug Administration about the use of wooden shelves for aging cheese. Many interpreted this communication as virtually banning the use of wooden shelves. However, by mid-week the agency issued an additional statement that said FDA is not prohibiting or banning wood shelving and that it will work with the artisanal community going forward.
The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets began the conversation when it asked FDA to clarify whether wooden boards or shelves are acceptable for aging cheese. Monica Metz, chief of the Dairy and Egg Branch for FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, responded, saying the use of wooden shelves for cheese ripening does not conform to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) because they cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized. Citing 21 CFR 110.40(a), Metz said “all plant equipment and utensils shall be so designed and of such material and workmanship as to be adequately cleanable, and shall be properly maintained.” Read the letter here.
However, FDA issued this week a second clarification that said, “To be clear, we have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese.” The update also said FDA will engage with artisanal cheesemakers and others to gather additional information about current practices.
IDFA will continue to monitor the situation.
For more information, contact John Allan, IDFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and International Standards, at firstname.lastname@example.org.