In Australia, the manufacture of cheese (that is not to be cooked) using raw milk is generally not permitted. This is fundamentally due to the risk of food poisoning from Listeria monocytogenes.
This bacteria has the potential to cause spontaneous miscarriages and as such foods that may contain it are either not permitted in this country or are carefully managed to prevent it’s introduction and growth.
Listeria likes cold conditions and enjoys low oxygen environments. As cold temperatures and vacuum packing are two of the barriers used to prevent most food pathogens from growing, managing this bacteria can be a problem.
Raw milk is recognised as a potential source of Listeria and therefore it is not permitted to be sold for human consumption in Australia and many other countries. If this raw milk is then used to make cheese, there is a high likelihood that Listeria and other pathogens will be present. If the cheese is cooked, the Listeria and other pathogens would most likely be killed, so it would be safe for consumption.
There are some people who believe that cheese made from raw milk has more flavour and character. They are trying very hard to get the Code changed. As it is the role of regulators to protect the public, the Code therefore does not permit the use of raw milk in cheese unless that cheese is cooked.
A proposal is before Food Standards Australia New Zealand currently requesting that the use of raw milk be granted for more cheeses and other products. Although a final decision has not yet been made, the lovers of raw milk cheeses may be about to have success in their campaign.
FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Steve McCutcheon said that, “as long as stringent requirements in the Code are met”, cheeses such as blue or cheddars may potentially be made from raw milk. Mr McCutcheon said; “These (requirements) include additional animal health, milking hygiene and temperature control requirements. Businesses would have to demonstrate to enforcement agencies that they are able to meet the requirements.” The UK regulator, the Food Standards Agency, is also going through a similar process and is awaiting it’s decision until December 2014, when it is expected that the European Food Safety Authority delivers the findings on its own review of the raw milk risks.
Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.