This blog post is brought to you by the Cheese of Choice Coalition, a program of the nonprofit organization Oldways that supports the production of artisan, raw-milk, and traditional cheese. Through a combination of advocacy, education, consumer outreach, and community engagement, the CCC works to preserve long-honored cheesemaking traditions and to ensure people everywhere continue to have the freedom to choose their cheese of choice.
Raw-milk cheese is finally coming to Australia. The FSANZ, Australia’s governing body of food standards and safety, released a regulatory report late last week [Ed. official proposal for all you policy wonks here]. Pending ministerial approval, delicious raw-milk cheese could be gracing dinner tables in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth by as early as February.
This is terrific news for traditional cheese enthusiasts. Australia has been stymied for decades by particularly draconian food safety laws. Although the EU, USA, and Canada face their own struggles with federal regulators over the right to unpasteurized dairy products, Australia has faced exceptional challenges.
Current law allows just a handful of hard cheeses to be produced with raw milk in Australia, and European imports are permitted only with special exemption. France’s famous Roquefort cheese, for instance, was only recently green-lighted for sale after a decade-long battle in court.
New regulations would provide the opportunity for a domestic cheesemaking industry to flourish. Accordingly, much of the advocacy for new regulations has come not from eager urban eaters (though they are legion) but from semi-rural cheese producers. This ever-growing industry wishes to make distinctive artisan cheese that is rooted in Australian soil—cheese that fetches a high premium in the marketplace and stimulates the revitalization of landscapes and rural communities. Claiming some of the best milk in the world, Australian artisans propose that in the form of unpasteurized cheese their dairy can truly shine.
Will Studd, cheese importer, book author, and Australia’s all-around cheese champion, comments that “the proposed changes are a potential game changer for raw-milk cheese in Australia, and they will most certainly allow producers and consumers a wider choice of cheese.” Blue cheese. Cheddar. Semi-hard cheeses. All would be permissible under the new proposal.
Producers will, of course, have to meet stringent production guidelines, demonstrating that validated good hygiene practices have been implemented and are being effectively followed. They will also have to be able to prove that products can safely survive the length of the supply chain from pasture to plate.
As Studd reiterates, “This is a very positive step in the right direction.”
It remains unclear what implications these regulatory changes will have in terms of foreign imports. Studd is hopeful that it will not only encourage the domestic industry but that it will afford a greater variety of European benchmark cheeses, such as French Comté, Spanish Manchego, and English Cheddar as well. With any luck, Australians will no longer have to fly 10,000 miles to Europe to have the opportunity to enjoy them.
After decades of dispute between cheese enthusiasts and federal regulators, things appear to be finally looking up in the land down under.
For more information (including interviews with cheesemakers and FSANZ officials), check out this video from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The Cheese of Choice Coalition was originally founded in 1999 by Oldways, the American Cheese Society, the Cheese Importers Association of America, and Whole Foods Market in an effort to preserve the rights of individuals to buy unpasteurized (raw-milk) cheese. Revitalized in 2014 as a program of the nonprofit food and nutrition education organization Oldways, the CCC continues to offer a strong voice of industry support and consumer advocacy. Become a member of the Coalition today and show your support for cheese and choice!Feature Photo Credit: alexxis via Compfight cc