FDA rulemakers’ assault on cheese

Published on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 23:54 - Written by

As the British thinker G.K. Chesterton once pointed out, “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” If only we could say the same of bureaucrats.

In the latest effort to protect the American people, the Food and Drug Administration has outlawed an ancient method for making cheese.

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards,” Forbes reports. “One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States. Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.”

Cheese is, of course, one of mankind’s earliest and greatest achievements. Processed cheese product is, of course, quite likely to prove its downfall. Yet in the world of federal rules and regulations, safely consuming artificial cheese-like substances is superior to what Chesterton rightly called “holy act of eating cheese.”

Soulless bureaucracy cannot comprehend the world of life and liveliness that is a wheel of cheese — real cheese. The FDA wrote “The porous structure of wood enables it to absorb and retain bacteria.”

Well, yes.

“Wood creates a beneficial environment for cheese,” writes cheese expert Gordon Edgar. “After all, what is cheese but a great achievement of the microbe community?”

As Forbes points out, “Corporate cheese makers like Leprino and Kraft will be able to weather this regulatory storm — they don’t make cheese, they manufacture cheese, and as such they do not follow the centuries old artisan techniques. But for small businesses and artisan cheese makers, wood boards are in fact essential to the making of cheese.”

The FDA ruling is a monstrous misunderstanding of two things. First, it’s a misinterpretation of food safety rules. The rules state “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.”

Wood isn’t mentioned. The FDA bureaucrat who has made the ruling merely assumes wood is not capable of being cleaned adequately. That’s wrong, as the FDA’s own studies show.

Second, the FDA ruling is a misunderstanding of cheese itself. We’re back to Chesterton now, who celebrated artisanal cheeses a century before the hipsters discovered them. And he lamented the oncoming storm of sanitation inspectors and drab government killjoys.

“By a wise doom of heaven men were commanded to eat cheese, but not the same cheese,” he wrote. “Being really universal it varies from valley to valley.”

When shall America rise up against these injustices? Will it be when a waiter brings to our tables nothing but bland, sterile manufactured cheese-like product, and a few biscuits? That happened to Chesterton.

“He gave me generally to understand that he was only obeying a custom of Modern Society,” he wrote. “I have therefore resolved to raise my voice, not against the waiter, but against Modern Society, for this huge and unparalleled modern wrong.”

And so must we all.