Target: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Goal: Urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lift potential restriction that would raise cheese prices
Thousands of well-known, award winning cheeses are under attack due to potential FDA regulations that would ban the use of wood-ripening boards from the cheese-making process. The FDA has been questioning the sanitary means of the tradition of aging cheese on wooden planks, leaving room for the growth and spread of bacteria. However, according to a paper published in 2013 by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, there is a way to properly prepare the wooden board to age the cheese in a safe way that would not jeopardize the American cheese industry by banning an age-old tradition.
Cheese makers across the country are under a lot of pressure, wondering if their way of life will change due to the sudden spike of curiosity from the FDA. According to Market Watch, the New York cheese industry is panicking, worrying that the FDA will start to crack down on further cheese-making processes. Despite the FDA’s claim that porous wood serves as a breeding ground for the spread of bacteria, petitioners and consumers have been sounding their voice. “For centuries, cheese makers have been creating delicious, nutritious, unique cheeses aged on wood,” the American Cheese Society writes. “No foodborne illness outbreak has been found to be caused by the use of wood as an aging surface.”
Although the FDA has not made any formal regulations against using wooden boards, past inquiries and recent scoldings by the FDA to NY cheese makers leaves cheese producers vulnerable. Limiting cheese-making by banning wood-board aging would not only deprive consumers of delicious, hearty tasting cheese where wood boards are particularly essential to the process of making Parmesan, cheddar, and Gruyere; but would also cost cheese makers hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in new ways of making cheese without the use of wood. According to Market Watch, a cheese maker at Jasper Hill in Vermont, which uses wood, told the New York Times that it would cost him $20 million to replace wooden shelving at his facility.
While the new regulations would force cheese makers to invest thousands of dollars into research and new products, consumers would have to suffer the burden of increasing cheese prices. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cheddar cheese prices are more than $5.70 per pound, with retail cheese having risen nearly 7% this past year. By signing this petition, you are urging the FDA to allow the age-old tradition of aging cheese on wood boards to remain intact, so long as they are kept clean via modern methods.
Dear U.S. Food and Drug Administration,
The age-old tradition of aging cheese on wooden boards is suddenly being questioned, despite no recent health concern outbreaks. For decades, the process of aging some of the most well-known cheeses, such as Parmesan, cheddar, and Gruyere has been accepted as a standard of practice, without the spread of bacteria being an overwhelming concern. According to a 2013 article published by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, there is a way to properly prepare the wooden board to age the cheese in a safe way that would not jeopardize the American cheese industry by banning an age-old tradition.
By banning an essential tool–the wooden board–cheesemakers will have to resort to much more expensive methods of producing cheese that will yield less flavorful and more expensive results. Consumers will be burdened by the sudden increase in price and the American cheese industry will suffer irreversible damage. Please do not break a tradition that has maintained the success of the cheese industry for centuries. By relying on new methods that ensure the health and sanitation of wooden boards, cheesemakers still have an attempt at perfecting their craft without financially suffering or breaking their traditions. I urge you to consider the hard work and craftsmanship of cheesemaking and the consumers that rely on affordable prices.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: J. P. Lon via Wikipedia