Stink over raw milk cheeses

(Sydney Morning Herald Australia)

By Judy Adamson

 

9-02-08

 

The public is being asked to comment on whether authorities should allow cheese to be made from raw milk in Australia.

 

At present, only cheese made with pasteurised milk can be sold. The importation of a few raw milk cheeses, such as parmesan and Roquefort, is permitted.

 

Debate over raw milk cheese has raged for some years. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has put out a discussion paper and is seeking comments (see www.foodstandards.gov.au).

 

The organisation is considering amendments to the Food Standards Code, which could increase the number and type of raw milk, or unpasteurised, products imported or made here.

 

A spokeswoman for FSANZ, Lydia Buchtmann, says the intent "is to make sure that these

products are safe, while at the same time making the standards national and uniform and getting rid of that inconsistency where you're permitted to import raw milk cheeses but can't necessarily make them locally".

 

One of Australia's strongest advocates for raw milk cheese, importer and host of pay TV's Cheese Slices, Will Studd, has asked FSANZ to allow more of the products into the country and "bring Australian food standards into line with European food standards".

 

"I want to be proud of Australian cheese internationally," he says. "They [FSANZ] have been dragging their feet about this issue.

 

"There are anomalies in the current system - you've got exceptions for international cheese but the local producers are not allowed a choice."

 

Lynne Tietzel, co-owner of cheese specialist Australia On A Plate, would also like the standards changed in favour of raw milk cheese. She says the response to the release of Roquefort in Australia was "incredible" and is aware of frustration experienced by locals of European background, who cannot buy cheeses here that they or their parents grew up with.

 

However, not everyone in the industry wants a change. David Brown, president of Australian Specialist Cheesemakers Association, says when Victorian members were surveyed about raw milk cheese in 2002, "only 6 per cent showed any enthusiasm which means there was 94 per cent that either didn't care or didn't want it"

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