First item to catch up on: cheese in the news. This time, a bit of a troublesome topic-- is cheese safe? Infectious pathogens like dangerous E coli. Are cheeses made from unpasteurized cheese unsafe enough to be banned or rules governing manufacture significantly changed? Some may find this tiresome-- the thought bubble 'really? This again???' I have the same bubble, but I also think to the few people that have gotten sick-- some severely-- from eating cheese, and the importance of setting policy that maximizes safety. And, yet again, life is full of risks, and because a few cheeses -- many from tainted pasteurized factories-- have been problematic doesn't mean all cheese production should be changed.
I will relay my person view, and then list some resources I have found helpful.
Personal view: As noted, life is full of risks. Unpasteurized fluid milk is not worth drinking-- it may taste nice, but the risk/benefit is just too imbalanced to be consumed. My judgement is that a reputable cheese maker, using unpasteurized milk to make aged cheeses older than 60 days, can be relied on to make safe enough cheese for general eating. The balance of risk/benefit ought to be carefully considered for pregnant women, young babies, and individuals with immunologic concerns. What I mean here is that some people enjoy cheese SO MUCH that perhaps for them it is worth a nibble on an aged cheese, while for others, who like cheese but don't dream of PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, it would be best to forgo. Lastly, it is hard to define 'reputable'. A cheese shop that knows its cheese supplier and can comment in particular on the safety protocols used by the cheese makers-- this is what you are looking for. Oh truly lastly, it is NOT the case that all pasteurized cheese is safe. Many outbreaks are in fresh pasteurized cheese that gets tainted after the pasteurization process. Think Queso Fresco.
1. American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on the consumption of raw and unpasteurized milk products by children and pregnant women. Click here. The AAP recommends banning the sale of unpasteurized milk products. I'd support fluid milk ban, but not aged cheeses. Nevertheless, a strong policy statement worth taking seriously.
2. FDA on unpasteurized milk. Easy to read. Doesn't specifically comment on hard cheeses.
3. In 2010, CDC investigated E coli outbreak because of contaminated Gouda-style cheese. Click here. I am pretty sure these cheeses were made from unpasteurized milk. NB- purchased at Costco!
4. CDC report on investigations of unpasteurized contaminated milk and milk products. Published 2012. Click here. While mostly fluid milk, some aged cheeses are implicated. I think still low risk for >60 days aged, but not zero.
Second item to catch up on: catching up to my students! During GI pathophysiology tutorial, the second year medical students I was teaching in March became aware of my interest in cheese. Our last day, we celebrated by having a fancy breakfast. This was fancy and fantastic because we enjoyed one of my favorite cheeses-- Humboldt Fog. The evidence is provided. But we didn't stop there. McDonalds hash browns also made it to our gathering. Scrumptious of course, but how about topped with a slab of Humboldt Fog? Inspired! To our knowledge, this is the first documented instance of combining these two foods.
|Humboldt Fog and McDonalds hash brown!|
|Humboldt Fog at GI Tutorial|