On July 31, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration, in conjunction with Health Canada, released a risk assessment for soft-ripened cheeses produced from raw milk. The assessment was focused on the risk of contracting listeriosis by consuming the products.
Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogen that is frequently found in agricultural and food processing environments. Listeriosis generally affects the digestive tract, but can also spread to other parts of the body, known as “invasive listeriosis”. Those most at-risk for the disease are the elderly, pregnant women, children, and individuals with compromised immune systems.
In the risk assessment, the risk of contracting listeriosis was conducted on a per-serving basis of a Camembert-like soft-ripened cheese, with a comparison between the use of pasteurized and non-pasteurized milks in the production of the cheese. The assessment also focused on different production methods, such as the aging period and intervention techniques to reduce the risk of contracting listeriosis. The current standard is a 60-day aging period, but the FDA is considering the benefits of a performance standard in its place.
The risk assessment had already received criticism during the draft phase in 2013. Both U.S. and French cheese associations have called the assessment flawed, and are concerned that the assessment will cast doubt on all cheeses produced from raw milk, including hard cheese.
Written by Tyler R. Etter- Research Assistant
August 3, 2015