In comments filed this week, IDFA said members support the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to collect scientific data to help identify and evaluate ways to minimize the impact of harmful bacteria in cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Because the majority of members use pasteurized milk to make their cheese, IDFA was unable to provide specific information about practices and control measures used to reduce potential foodborne illness in cheese made from raw milk.
FDA is seeking the data to help evaluate the current 60-day aging requirements for raw milk cheeses. The agency wants to learn more about current practices used by a wide variety of producers, including the artisanal cheese manufacturing community.
“IDFA believes it is important for FDA to gain an accurate understanding of the scope of the industry that makes cheese from unpasteurized milk,” the comments said. “IDFA will be surveying our members to obtain current industry data on the amounts and types of cheese made from pasteurized milk, heat-treated milk and raw milk and, if possible, seek information regarding the time and temperatures used to heat treat the milk.”
With a goal of collecting the information in the first quarter of 2016, IDFA said it will share the findings with FDA when complete.
FDA is taking this action in part based on findings from a joint quantitative risk assessment by the agency and Health Canada that was released in August. IDFA worked with FDA on this risk assessment, initially released in 2013, and submitted comments in support of its approach. The assessment found that the risk of listeriosis from one variety of soft-ripened cheese made with raw milk is estimated to be 50 to 160 times higher than that from soft-ripened cheese made with pasteurized milk.
In the new comments, IDFA said “We believe any future changes to the current regulatory provisions requiring a 60‐day minimum aging period for cheese made from unpasteurized milk should consider a performance objective or standard for L. monocytogenes that is based on sound scientific evidence and can accommodate both traditional cheese-making practices and new technologies.”
The comments also outlined many activities that the industry has undertaken to ensure the safety of cheese and other dairy products, including IDFA’s collaboration with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The most recent collaborative effort was the newly released guidance, “Control of Listeria Monocytogenes: Guidance for the U.S. Dairy Industry.”
For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.