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Bay Area Artisan Cheese Makers Stunned By FDA Crackdown On Wooden Cheeseboards

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Allen-Martin_BIO-HEAD Allen Martin
Allen Martin anchors the KPIX 5 newscasts each weeknight at 5 and 6 pm...
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SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX 5) — The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on wooden shelves and cheeseboards, upsetting artisan cheese makers in the Bay Area and across the country.

For three generations, the Pacheco family behind the Achadinha Cheese Company has made cheese the old fashioned way.

It takes about a year to get things just right and one step is absolutely critical.

Company co-owner Donna Pacheco said it’s the old-fashioned, all-natural wood which absorbs moisture and lets the cheese breathe.

“There’s no way I could make this cheese without having my shelves,” Pacheco said.

Now the FDA has raised the stake saying “…wooden shelves or boards cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized.”

Pacheco said she ensures thorough cleaning by scrubbing then soaking the boards with chlorine.

But that’s not good enough — the FDA wants all cheeses stored on plastic.

“We would have to take out all of this shelving,” Pacheco said.

It’s an odd collision of trends for farmers like the Pachecos.

The FDA has targeted raw milk, imported dairy and now wooden boards just as the artisan food movement explodes across the country.

“I think that we’re in a huge food movement and it’s catching on,” Pacheco said. “My concern is it’s not catching on fast enough.”

For a long time, the American farmer has been a symbol of simpler times. But now when it comes to farming, food and even cheese, the simple life is not enough anymore.

The American Cheese Society responded to the FDA in a press release saying “No food-borne illness outbreak has been found to be caused by the use of wood as an aging surface,” while strongly encouraging the FDA to revise its policy and continue to permit properly maintained, cleaned, and sanitized wood as an aging surface in cheesemaking.

The FDA can expect push-back from America’s small cheese producers who say the administration should have to prove that the boards are making people sick.

 

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