The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it is requesting comments from the public, including scientific data and information, that would assist the agency in identifying and evaluating measures that might minimize the impact of harmful bacteria in cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.
The FDA said it recognizes that there is broad diversity in cheese manufacturing operations and approaches and that many factors go into ensuring the safety of the food.
In issuing this call for data and information, FDA said it is interested in learning more about the standards and practices in use by a wide variety of producers, including the growing artisanal cheese manufacturing community.
"We are taking this action as part of an ongoing discussion with industry and other stakeholders about potential health risks associated with consumption of cheese made from unpasteurized milk -- risks that are greatest for people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women and children," FDA said in a statement.
The FDA said it is asking for comments in part based on findings from a joint FDA/Health Canada Quantitative Risk Assessment, also released Friday.
According to the risk assessment, there is a 50- to 160- fold increase in the risk of listeriosis from a serving of soft -ripened cheese made from raw milk, compared with soft -ripened cheese made from pasteurized milk.
The assessment also said that although the risk from soft -ripened cheese made from raw milk is higher, the results show that soft-ripened cheese made from pasteurized milk also carries some risk.
The main factor that influences risk per serving of soft-ripened cheese made from pasteurized milk is the amount of L. monocytogenes growth in soft -ripened cheese, particularly while the consumer stores the is cheese at home. L. monocytogenes i s a bacterium that can grow at refrigerator temperatures, given the right conditions, the report said.
See the notice of report and comment on the Federal Register.