The Food and Drug Administration released last week the test results from its sampling of several commodities, including raw milk cheese aged for 60 days. IDFA welcomed the release of the results and continues to support FDA’s decision earlier this year to pause its strict generic E.coli standard.
The sampling assignments, which also covered cucumbers and hot peppers, began in 2014 as part of FDA’s new proactive program for ensuring food safety and preventing contamination. The assignments were designed to collect a statistically determined number of samples in 12 to 18 months and test them for certain types of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.
FDA selected raw milk cheese aged 60 days because “evidence” indicated that this aging period may not eliminate or adequately reduce disease-causing bacteria in raw milk cheese and could be a potential hazard to consumers.
FDA Tested 1606 Samples
After testing a total of 1606 samples, the FDA found raw milk cheese aged 60 days to have less than a one percent contamination rate for Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7 and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli., and the overall contamination rate for generic E. coli was 5.4 percent. Generic E. coli rarely causes illness, but its presence may be an indicator of insanitary processing conditions.
“FDA’s results provide further support for the well-founded idea that detecting generic E. coli does not mean you are more likely to find disease causing, pathogenic E. coli,” said John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards. “IDFA is also pleased that FDA recognizes in the report that higher levels of generic E. coli ‘may’ signal insanitary conditions during production of the cheese, which means that it doesn’t always indicate insanitary conditions.”
IDFA Supports FDA Decision on Standard
He said IDFA continues to support FDA’s decision earlier this year to pause enforcement of its current strict generic E. coli standard as the agency reevaluates the standard’s scientific validity and usefulness.
“Enforcing such a standard could lead to the destruction of perfectly safe cheese, which would be quite costly, particularly for smaller artisan cheesemakers, and is clearly not an efficient use of limited FDA resources,” Allan added.
For more details, read “Microbiological Surveillance Sampling: FY14-16 Raw Milk Cheese Aged 60 Days.”
Members with questions may contact Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org.