Cheese makers have been granted regulatory discretion to use liquid ultrafiltered (UF) milk as an ingredient in Swiss cheese, according to an April 6 letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to IDFA. The FDA decision comes after IDFA provided nutritional and technical information last fall that the agency requested in order to make its decision. Based on that data, FDA stated in the letter that "fluid UF milk may be used in Swiss cheese without adversely affecting the essential chemical characteristics, nutritional properties, or sensory attributes of Swiss cheese."
IDFA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Clay Hough welcomed the decision, stating that "the use of liquid UF in Swiss cheese manufacturing is extremely important to our members. We commend FDA for issuing this regulatory discretion."
FDA also stated in the letter that the agency plans to publish a proposal this year regarding the use of liquid UF milk in all standardized cheeses, a move stemming from five-year-old industry petitions to allow this ingredient; the pending petitions were submitted by the American Dairy Products Institute in December 1999 and the National Cheese Institute in June 2000.
Hough noted that the industry "remains hopeful that FDA will accept the use of this important ingredient in all standardized cheeses."
Specifically regarding the Swiss cheese decision, FDA is requiring manufacturers that use UF milk to declare the ingredient as "ultrafiltered milk" on the ingredients statement of the finished product; declaring "milk" will not be sufficient. This represents a change from FDA's previous labeling positions on the use of UF milk in Cheddar and mozzarella, in which manufacturers can use UF milk currently. IDFA believes it is possible that FDA may integrate this labeling requirement into its upcoming proposal regarding UF milk in all standardized cheeses.
To read the full FDA letter, click here. For background information regarding the use of ultrafiltered milk in cheesemaking, click here.