Raw Milk in Cheese


When we had Rupperts we would make regular trips to France to check out markets, eat and visit wineries…On our return we would always sneak in as much young raw milk cheese as I could carry in a carry-on bag. Prior to 2001 airport security was less stringent and this was never a problem. Towards the end of our stay in France, whether in Paris or elsewhere we would visit a great cheese shop and collect cheeses that were not sold in the US because of rules about not selling unpasteurized (cheeses made from raw milk) cheeses that have been aged for less than 60 days.

Cheeses made with raw milk have a more complex flavor than cheeses made with pasteurized milk. The argument against raw milk cheeses is that there is harmful bacteria present in the cheese that could be harmful to consume. Over the years there have been a few cases and it is widely acknowledged that pregnant women should avoid eating raw milk cheeses. On the other hand the French have been eating non aged raw milk cheeses for about two thousand years. However, small artisan cheese makers that are still producing farmhouse (where milk is from the farm where cheese is produced and no character is lost in the transportation of the milk) unpasteurized cheeses are dwindling for all sorts of reasons but in many cases economics.

Frances, my librarian, gave me a book called Au Revoir To All That, by Michael Steinberger. Last night I learned that contemporary raw milk has less bacteria than raw milk used to have which could actually make it more dangerous:

“He (Morelin who works for a large French cheese maker) told me that the nature of milk had changed.. Twenty years ago, raw milk typically had 200,000 to 300,00 bacteria per gram. Now, thanks to the increased hygiene standards mandated by the European Union, the milk had just 10,000 bacteria per gram…At this point I confessed to some confusion. If there now were so many fewer bacteria in the milk, didn’t it this mean the milk was safer…He explained that when there had been many more bacteria in the milk, all those pathogens had had to fight for space, and it had created a stable environment. With fewer germs, there was less competition and more space for the bacteria to develop. ‘It’s a paradox of food safety,’ he said. ‘With fewer germs, the danger may be worse.'”

I did not find this surprising in the world today of hand sanitizers and fear of bacteria. I recently heard about a case where a child actually got alcohol poisoning from licking the hand sanitizer off of his hands!

We find friendly bacteria in the kombucha we brew, small production wine, which relies on bacteria to develop, raw milk which is only available through joining buying clubs and when we travel small raw farmhouse cheeses.

Ultimately the search for solutions will always lead to more problems until we realize that the way we view problems and their solutions are the problem itself. That is to say that there is no difference between a solution and its problem. A solution is always contained in a problem and in order to move beyond a problem without exasperating situations we must acknowledge on some level uncertainty–the fine line between nature and society, science and tradition and that healthy eating can not be divorced from ‘good’ eating…

Our love of technology and state of the art has to be balanced with immediate situations, that inherently lie outside of universal perspectives…

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This entry was published on October 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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