ACS Issues Position Statement on the Safety of Aging Cheese on Wood

10 years ago Jasmine Romero 3 Minute(s) to read

Denver, CO (June 10, 2014) – In response to the recent Food & Drug Administration (FDA) statement on the
use of wooden shelves for cheese aging, the American Cheese Society (ACS) has issued a position
statement on the safety of aging cheese on wood surfaces. The statement follows a Member Alert issued by
the organization on June 6, after Monica Metz, Chief of FDA’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition’s
Dairy and Egg Branch, clarified that FDA’s position is that “the use of wooden shelves, rough or otherwise,
for cheese ripening does not conform to cGMP [Current Good Manufacturing Practice] requirements.”

The ACS Position Statement on the Safety of Aging Cheese on Wood reads:

For centuries, cheesemakers have been creating delicious, nutritious, unique cheeses aged on wood.
Today’s cheesemakers—large and small, domestic and international—continue to use this material for
production due to its inherent safety, unique contribution to the aging and flavor-development process, and
track record of safety as part of overall plant hygiene and good manufacturing practices. No foodborne
illness outbreak has been found to be caused by the use of wood as an aging surface.

The American Cheese Society (ACS) strongly encourages FDA to revise its interpretation of the Code of
Federal Regulation (21 CFR 110.40(a)) to continue to permit properly maintained, cleaned, and sanitized
wood as an aging surface in cheesemaking as has been, and is currently, enforced by state and federal
regulators and inspectors.

It is ACS’s position that:

  •  Safety is paramount in cheesemaking.
  • Cheeses aged on wood have a long track record of safety, and have long been produced meeting
    FDA standards.
  • Wood can be safely used for cheese aging when construction is sound and in good condition, and all
    surfaces are properly cleaned and maintained using sanitation steps that assure the destruction of
    pathogens, including but not limited to:
    • All surfaces are free of defects;
    • Any wood preservatives used are safe and acceptable for direct food contact;
          • Inspection and cleaning procedures are followed that specify:
          • Frequency of inspection and testing
          • Frequency of cleaning and sanitizing
          • Methods used that adequately clean boards which might include:
          • Kiln-drying
          • Air-drying
          • Heat-treating
          • Sanitizing with acceptable products
          • Inoculation to create and maintain positive biofilm
          • Raising the core temperature of the wood above pasteurization
  • Ongoing monitoring and verification of the effectiveness of all procedures per the
    Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) provision of the
    Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
  • Corrective actions to address any issues
  • Discarding of wood that is deteriorated and/or in poor repair

Furthermore, ACS believes:

  • Traditional methods of cheesemaking can and do meet food safety standards.
  • U.S. consumers should have access to a wide variety of domestic and imported cheeses, including
    those safely aged on wood.
  • State and federal regulators and inspectors must work collaboratively with cheesemakers to
    understand how traditional methods and materials can comply with current food safety standards.
  • Many of the finest and most renowned cheeses from around the world are at risk of disappearing
    from the U.S. market if regulatory and enforcement changes under FSMA eliminate traditional
    materials and methods.
  • FDA should provide timely notification, hold proper listening sessions and comment periods, review
    all available scientific data, and include consideration of industry stakeholders before modifying longstanding interpretation or implementation of its regulations which impact American businesses.

ACS is working with allied industry groups in the U.S. and abroad, concerned consumers, producers, and
elected officials to preserve the use of this safe, proven, traditional material in cheesemaking.
For more information, contact the ACS office at 720-328-2788 or

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