Lawmakers challenge new FDA standard for raw milk cheese

Vermont lawmakers are challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s more stringent standard for cheeses made with raw milk.

Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchSenators call for more automakers to join emissions deal with California House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Overnight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-'Medicare for All' video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids MORE (D-Vt.), Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (D-Vt.), and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (I-Vt.) said the standard, which decreases the presence of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheeses, could effectively ban many age-old recipes for raw milk cheese and severely harm artisan cheese producers in Vermont.

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"Cheese production is an important, and growing, component of our nation's value-added agricultural economy,” the lawmakers said in a letter to the agency on Thursday. “It is an economic driver in rural areas across the country, producing good jobs, internationally-recognized brands, and award-winning cheeses."

The new industry standard, which was included in the FDA’s Compliance Program Guidance Manual and Compliance Policy Guide, reduced the amount of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese from 10,000 MPN per gram to 10 MPN per gram. MPN stands for most probable number, and is the method of getting quantitative data on concentrations of discrete items like microorganisms.

The lawmakers said a more stringent non-toxigenic E. coli standard for raw milk cheeses is not only inconsistent with internationally recognized standards but unnecessary, because Non-toxigenic E. coli typically aren’t harmful to humans.

“Every industry needs good regulation in order to thrive,” Mateo Kehler, co-founder of the Vermont-based Jasper Hill Farm, said in a news release. “As a cheesemaking community we are not asking for 'less' regulation, we are asking for 'good' regulation that is developed transparently and based on solid science.”