IDFA provided input to officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week as the department was finalizing its proposed changes for specifications for mozzarella and natural American cheeses allowed to be sold in its Commodity Procurement Program. The program, led by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), purchases American-made foods that are delivered to schools, food banks and households in communities across the country.
IDFA had recently filed comments asking USDA why it was suggesting amendments to the cheese specifications, especially since they would require some mozzarella cheeses to have moisture and milkfat compositions that are different than those in the federal standards. The amendments also would mandate a shorter maximum age of natural American cheese from manufacture to delivery.
During a joint call with IDFA and the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (WCDR), USDA officials explained they were recommending changes to improve the performance of the cheese when used in different foodservice meals, such as meltability on pizzas. IDFA also learned that WCDR researchers had provided technical advice to USDA on the proposed revisions to the mozzarella specifications.
The agency agreed not to make any changes to the natural American cheese specifications. For mozzarella, USDA decided to expand the delivery temperature range for string cheese to a maximum of 45 degrees Fahrenheit and to lower the minimum milkfat percentage for low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella to 30 percent from 36 percent. No changes were made to the moisture requirement.
IDFA has prepared an informal document that details the changes to the mozzarella cheese specifications, which are final for the 2016 bidding season. Members may log in to read all the new requirements with notes of the changes.
“USDA was very receptive to our suggestions,” said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, who represented IDFA in the discussion. “Importantly, USDA offered to continue working with IDFA and our members that sell cheese through the program to further refine the specifications in order to improve cheese performance and promote increased use.”
For more information, contact Frye at firstname.lastname@example.org.