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An ongoing battle

A new regulation is coming into effect in Australia. We asked Advisory Committee member Will Studd, Australian raw milk cheese advocate, to explain the current situation:

“The Australian food authorities have recently announced strict new import controls on all cheese made from unpasteurised milk.

From August, the only imported cheese made from raw milk ‘officially’ recognised as permitted for sale will be Roquefort. This cheese was granted a special government exemption in 2005 after a legal battle and the famous burial which resulted in a 171-page government report (A499) outlining why Roquefort was safe for Australian consumption.

The new rules are very confusing for anyone familiar with the international definition of raw milk cheese.  

Under Food Standards Australia - New Zealand (FSANZ) production standards hard cooked cheeses made from raw milk are considered 'pasteurised’ provided:

i.         the curd is heated to a temperature of no less than 48°C; and

ii.         the cheese or cheese product has a moisture content of less than 39%, after being stored at a temperature of no less than 10°C for a period of no less than 120 days from the date of processing.

The process and definition conveniently avoid an embarrassing ban on the import and sale of European benchmarks such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere AOP, and Comte. But effectively eliminates the possibility for softer and younger cheeses to be imported to Australia.

With the exception of Roquefort, all other types of imported raw milk cheese  will only be permitted for sale in the future if accompanied by recognised government-to-government certification showing they have been produced in line with the Australian production standards for unpasteurised milk cheese. These production standards were announced in 2016 and to date have proved to be so strict and impractical, that few local producers have managed to meet all the requirements. 

In signs of a further tightening of regulations, the FSANZ has also requested the withdrawal of applications (A531) made over a decade ago to review a ban on the sale of English farmhouse raw milk cheddar.”

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We are discouraged by these actions by the FSANZ and continue to monitor the situation around the world. However, increasingly government agencies are tweaking regulation to exclude an increasing number of cheeses made with raw milk from ever coming into the market.

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Photo by: Jason South

Carlos Yescas