New raw milk cheese changes: Summary for members

16 January 2015

Long-awaiting changes to Australia's rules and guidelines on the production and sale of raw milk cheese have recently been released by Australia's food standards body, FSANZ.

Subject to approval by the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation on 30th January, the new standards will be gazetted into law at the end of February.

ASCA considers the new standards to be a positive development for Australia's artisan cheese industry, as they will allow licensed producers to make a wider range of raw milk cheeses than is currently possible. 

KEY POINTS:

- New types of raw milk cheese will be able to be made and sold in Australia, but only under very strict conditions.

- The new Standards will be gazetted into law at the end of February, subject to approval by the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.

- Until now, only raw milk cooked curd cheeses have been allowed, and there are only a few examples of this type of raw milk cheese being produced in Australia.

- The new Standards will allow Australian producers to make some styles of semi-hard cheeses from raw milk, such as cheddars and some blues, although soft cheeses will not be permitted. The exact styles of cheese are not specified in the Standards. Instead, cheesemakers will need to demonstrate that a combination of factors such as starter culture activity, pH reduction, salt concentration and moisture content, storage time and storage temperature all result in cheeses that are safe to eat.

- The changes only apply to cheese made from raw milk, not other dairy products such as milk, butter or yoghurt

- The new regime is likely to be best suited to smaller farmhouse cheesemakers who have good control over the health of their animals and the quality of their milk, as well as the skills and experience required to make raw milk cheese.

- The changes are very conservative and it will not be easy for any cheesemaker to make raw milk cheese under the new standards.

- The rules and guidelines require detailed testing, control and recording of every stage of the process, from the dairy animals to the final product. And the relevant State dairy regulator must be satisfied that the milk is produced without pathogens, as well as resulting in a cheese that will not support the growth of pathogens.

- All of this must be documented in a detailed food safety plan settled with the relevant State regulator, and be subject to regular monitoring  and audit processes, as well as final product testing for microbiological limits.

Members of the ASCA Committee have prepared the following document summarising the extensive changes to the Food Standards Code:

New raw milk cheese changes: Summary for ASCA members  

There will be more information provided over the coming months.

Click to view more info

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