FDA backpedals on cheese board ban

Thopr, WI (WEAU) -- An area cheesemaker is defending the use of wooden boards to age cheese, for the same reason the food and drug administration had wanted to ban it: consumer safety. The FDA later backed off of that stance.

Earlier this week the FDA called the boards unsanitary. That caused an uproar in the industry.
Cheesemakers at Holland’s Family Cheese say the wooden board is essential to keeping the quality
of their cheese intact and without it the cheese business as we know it couldn't continue.

The quality control coordinator at Holland’s, Ashlyn Nowobielski, "We make artisan, hand crafted, with passion cheese, that's really been Marieke’s thing since she's started, is hand crafted with passion."

Cheese making at Holland's is an art form, one that cheesemaker Marieke Penterman says has been perfected over centuries.

Marieke says, "All the cheese that we import and we love have been aged on wooden shelves. It has been done for hundreds of years and I think if we have protocols in place to make sure everything is well maintained, we should be able to continue this."

The FDA wanted to ban the use of wooden boards because it believed the boards are unsanitary, but Penterman says there are rigorous cleaning protocols in place to ensure the boards, and cheese, remain clean.

Penterman says, "For the first 14 days we clean all of our cheeses, what we do is that we take the cheese, we flip it, we clean it with water and vinegar and then we all the cheese and put them on a clean, dry board under it and after that board is clean we sanitize the boards. All our cheese are cleaned every two days."

Penterman says without the boards she doesn't know if cheesemakers would able to maintain the quality of their cheeses, and that using plastic or stainless steel boards could be potentially dangerous.

She says, "We would not have the same quality cheeses if you have to age them on stainless steel boards or plastic. I also think it would be more dangerous for the public safety if you'd age it on shelves that don't absorb moisture because it would only create a moisture area that will be ideal for bacteria growth."

Penterman says overall she believes wooden boards to be the safest choice. She says, "It makes a safer product in the end, I truly believe it makes a safer product.”

Now, the FDA is saying that cheese producers won't necessarily lose the wooden boards they use to age their cheese. And, a department spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says secretary Ben Brancel has urged FDA officials to take a second look at its policy.

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