In a move to which we can only respond "nooooo!" the FDA has moved to ban aging cheese on shelves made from wooden boards. As in, a ban on the following: Brie, Camembert, Beaufort, Raclette, Parmaggiano, Comte…uh, cheddar. Apparently, a lot of cheese we like is aged on wood.
But there's a worse part: not only must American cheesemakers discontinue this technique and somehow re-invent a practice that has not been changed for centuries, the ban also extends to imports. Do they know how powerfully the contents of my suitcase will reek when I'm forced to smuggle it in? Do they expect me to live on mozzarella and ricotta for the rest of my life?
Related: Know Your Cheeses: A Guided Tour of American, French, Italian Cheeses
The FDA's argument is that the boards, once used, cannot be properly cleaned due to the porous nature of wood. They note that in theory and practice the bacteria that ferment the cheese have no proven harmful heath effects, but since wood can't be 100% sanitized, rules are rules, even though what's living in there after a thorough cleaning won't hurt you. No other material duplicates the desired effects of drawing out moisture (a key action in the aging process) and hosting the coryneform bacteria that create the surface mold which imparts sought-after complex funky, floral and nutty nuances. Or in laymen's terms "the whole point of aging."
That bacteria has no intention of hurting us. In fact, it only serves only to make cheese safer and more delicious, fighting off the listeria that also thrives in the wood-aging environment. Nobody knows the nature of these micro-organisms better than cheesemakers, so you can imagine why the dairy community and their supporters — pretty much everyone who's ever torn into a nice soft Brie — is up in arms over this forcibly imposed germaphobia.
Read the outraged legalese on Simple Justice, and hoard your Brillat-Saverin while you can. Better yet, ship some to your local Congressman to see if we can't rationalize this problem away.
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