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June 11, 2014

Local firms blast FDA's cheese decree

Agency claims wood surfaces are unsanitary


Corinne Brovetto, with her husband, Ronald, and son, Russell, has been making artisanal cheese for 14 years at their Harpersfield Dairy operation. She said the family recently spent 11 hours with an FDA inspector who went over their cheese-making production area with a fine tooth comb. The inspector also removed two wheels of cheese for laboratory inspection, she said.

“They were worth $90,” she noted.

The reports sent back to the family by federal officials showed there was no evidence of any pathogen contamination, she pointed out.

Corinne Brovetto, in an interview with The Daily Star, said before the inspector left the farm she related she was impressed with the level of cleanliness, but added: “Technically, I should write you up because you’re using wooden boards.”

Corinne Brovetto said the boards, used in the cave room where the cheese is allowed to age, are cleaned, washed and aired out regularly.

“This will be terrible financially for us if we have to give up the wooden boards,” she said. She and other cheesemakers interviewed said FDA officials suggested no alternatives when asked what type of surface should be used in place of the wood.

On Tuesday, staff aides to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated that the senator plans to push the FDA today to back off on its campaign to end the use of wooden boards in the making of cheese.

The senator, who had arranged for the Cooperstown Cheese products to be featured at the inauguration celebration, is slated to speak to reporters from his Washington office today on the subject.

But it appeared later Tuesday afternoon that the FDA was listening to the rising clamor about its enforcement efforts.

An FDA official, responding to an inquiry from The Daily Star, said the statements made by Metz in her letter to New York state Agriculture and Markets official was “not a policy statement.”

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