Flutterby™! : They're taking our cheese!

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

They're taking our cheese!

2014-06-11 00:58:58.814386+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

The social medias today have exploded with "OMG! The FDA is going to ban traditional wood cheese shelves! Catastrophe!" alarmism today. Metafilter: First they came for your raw milk, then your Parmigiano Reggiano has a bunch of links, but the resulting thread (which is bloody huge) has a few gems, and I did a little reading of my own.

Back when cutting boards went plastic, there was a grand rush to HDPE, and then some investigation and it was determined that although the ability to throw the cutting board through a commercial dishwasher was handy, wood cutting boards were actually better for home cooks because the inevitable and eventual scraps and cuts were less likely to harbor live bacteria.

This only seems to be true if the board is scrubbed and dried. Modelling the competitive growth between Listeria monocytogenes and biofilm microflora of smear cheese wooden shelves.

The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanism of the observed inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes by the natural biofilm microflora (BM) on wooden shelves used in the ripening of a soft and smear cheese. For this, BM was harvested and we conducted a series of experiments in which two strains of L. monocytogenes were co-cultured with BM on glass fiber filters deposited on model cheeses. Compared to monoculture, L. monocytogenes growth rate in co-culture was not reduced but the growth of the pathogen stopped as soon as BM entered the stationary phase. This reduction in maximum population density can be explained by nutrient consumption and exhaustion by BM as no production of inhibitors by BM has been detected. This mechanism of pathogen inhibition has been previously described as the "Jameson effect".

So Listeria monocytogenes grows happily on wood.

What seems to have happened in a regulatory sense is that the FDA was making a lot of field judgments on what was or wasn't safe, and a a local FDA office was dealing with a dairy with really lax sanitation practice, and turned to Washington for clarification, from whence this edict, which is consistent with previous rulemaking and law, came down.

There has been much whining about "well in Europe...", well, in France, Listeriosis happens at a rate two thirds again that in the U.S., however...

In 8 other European countries, the incidence of listeriosis has increased, or remained relatively high, since 2000. As in France, these increases cannot be attributed to foodborne outbreaks, and no increase has been observed in pregnancy-associated cases. European countries appear to be experiencing an increased incidence of listeriosis among persons >60 years of age. The cause of this selective increased incidence is unknown.

It sounds like the FDA is backpedaling a bit, but it also seems like there's some nuance to the food safety aspect of this that the alarmists are ignoring.

Edit: The FDA is making various clarifying statements, see http://uk.reuters.com/article/...fda-cheese-idUKKBN0EL2IV20140610 and http://www.forbes.com/sites/gr...-down-in-fight-over-aged-cheese/ and more

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Food Bay Area Theater & Plays Sociology Work, productivity and environment California Culture Woodworking ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-11 13:35:27.646614+00 by: Dan Lyke

This appears to be the new FDA statement from Branch Chief Monica Metz as passed through the American Cheese Society http://origin.library.constant...den+shelves+for+cheese+aging.pdf

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-14 03:09:08.260295+00 by: Dan Lyke