Paul Jacob

I’m no cheese expert. But I know what I like. And I prefer “interesting” cheese to the mostly mass-produced product I see on supermarket shelves.

Why? A failure of capitalism?

No.

Blame the FDA for today’s mediocrity in cheese. The milk product industry has been heavily regulated, subsidized, and managed since FDR’s time, at least. And it’s mostly gotten worse. Government, like cheese, ages to “perfection.”

By which I mean, when it comes to government, perfectly foolish.

The most famous “government cheese” problem (the government buying and storing huge quantities of the stuff to raise consumer prices and “therefore” stabilize milk production) is only the tip of a very huge hunk of the stinky stuff. Enforced pasteurization is at the heart of America’s milk and cheese industry (unlike in many places in Europe), and the federal government’s ongoing war on bacteria (which our bodies require, to at least some extent) has led to today’s perhaps-safe but mostly bland and uninteresting cheeses.

And then there were the FDA’s rulings that rocked the cheese industry a few weeks ago:

The FDA recently conducted a handful of routine inspections in New York and cited cheesemakers for using wooden planks to age their products. News of these citations quickly spread through the cheesemaking industry and many business owners are concerned about their livelihood.

The FDA swore up and down that cheesemakers must not use wooden boards in cheese production:

The use of wooden shelves, rough or otherwise, for cheese ripening does not conform to cGMP requirements, which require that “all plant equipment and utensils shall be so designed and of such material and workmanship as to be adequately cleanable, and shall be properly maintained.” 21 CFR 110.40(a). Wooden shelves or boards cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized. The porous structure of wood enables it to absorb and retain bacteria, therefore bacteria generally colonize not only the surface but also the inside layers of wood. The shelves or boards used for aging make direct contact with finished products; hence they could be a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms in the finished products.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.