FDA raises concerns over traditional cheese aging process - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

FDA raises concerns over traditional cheese aging process

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THORP (WAOW) -

The FDA is raising questions about a traditional practice used by some Wisconsin cheese makers.

The agency says wooden boards used to age cheese may not be sanitary enough, but a Thorp cheese maker says the shelves are essential to the cheese's quality.

Marieke Penterman, co-owner of Holland's Family Cheese, says she is worried for the future of her business.

"We would not be able to maintain the quality we have now or the flavor of our cheese if the FDA would decide to take our wooden shelves away," said Penterman. "I don't even think we can call it gouda if we don't make it on wooden shelves. It's an essential part of cheesemaking."

On Tuesday, the FDA clarified its policy saying the agency doesn't plan on banning the practice.

According to the statement, "Current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be 'adequately cleanable' and properly maintained." It also said, "The FDA is always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese."

At Holland's Family Cheese, Penterman says her workers sanitize the cheese and the boards at least twice a week.

"It's in our own best interest that we have a product that is safe for the public," she said.

She says regulators also do random tests on her wooden shelves to check for any bacteria.

Penterman says her business can't switch to shelves made out of plastic or metal.

She says she thinks those materials are actually more harmful.

"The moisture can not leave underneath the cheese and it would create a perfect circumstances for bacteria to grow," she said.

Penterman says she hopes the FDA will create a clearer rule for artisan cheese makers.

"It's much better to have clear writing and say, 'Yes you are allowed to use wooden shelves, if you maintain it this certain way,'" said Penterman.

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