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 WelchFormer US attorney considering Senate run in Vermont as Republican Members of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 Lowenthal becomes latest House Democrat to not seek reelection MORE (D-Vt.), Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Former US attorney considering Senate run in Vermont as Republican The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sen. Kaine, drivers stranded in I-95 backup MORE (D-Vt.), and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Briahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service 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.


"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.”