Banning wooden boards for aging cheese? The Accidental Locavore is outraged and you should be too! In an amazing use of its legislative powers, the FDA has ruled that wooden boards are not approved for use in cheese aging operations, declaring that "the use of wooden shelves, rough or otherwise, for cheese ripening does not conform to current Good Manufacturing Practices."
Have you ever known anyone to get sick from eating cheese that was aged on a wooden board?
Besides the fact that most people don't even eat the rinds, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has gotten sick from an aged cheese. However _______ (fill in the blank with whatever food, or drug-related atrocity) has gone unchecked. Do you think it's because the FDA doesn't want to mess with Big Agra or Big Pharma? Much easier to pick on the little guys.
If you're not particularly attached to American cheeses, don't think this won't affect you. Theoretically, if they wanted to ruin not only our artisanal cheese makers, but those worldwide, they could stop any imported cheeses that were aged on boards from coming into the country. Say "Ciao, Parmesan!" "Cheerio, cheddar!" and "Adios Manchego!" as almost every aged European cheese is and has been for centuries, aged on wooden planks. The thing is, wood is sustainable, breathes and may or may not add to the taste of the cheese. Cheese aged on plastic or metal shelving just doesn't taste the same (unwrap a slice of American cheese if you don't believe me).
Just as this was being written, the FDA backtracked on its ruling, but cheese makers are still skittish. They'll be meeting Monday at the Cabot Creamery in Vermont (home of some of my favorite cheese, butter and yogurt) to discuss it. I'll end this with a quote from the end of the NY Times article:
"Other than ruling that milk from mammals would no longer allowed for cheese production, it is hard to think of an issue that would unite more of the cheese world -- big and small, foreign and domestic -- to mobilize," Gordon Edgar, a cheese monger at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco and one of the nation's authorities on artisan cheese, wrote in an email.