Lauren Sucher, an FDA spokeswoman, said, “The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA requirement in effect that addresses this issue.”
She added that “in the interest of public health, the FDA’s current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be ‘adequately cleanable’ and properly maintained. Historically, the FDA has expressed concern about whether wood meets this requirement and has noted these concerns in inspectional findings. FDA is always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese.”
Sucher said her agency “will engage with the artisanal cheese-making community to determine whether certain types of cheeses can safely be made by aging them on wooden shelving.”
Both Sweitzer and Brovetto said they wanted to know he FDA has similar concerns with imported artisan cheese, which has been produced using similar wooden boards for centuries.
They said it would be highly unfair to domestic cheese producers if all the enforcement action is aimed at them but is not directed at the imported products.