The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement on Tuesday, explaining that the agency had no new policy regarding aging of cheese on wooden boards, effectively easing concerns of U.S. cheesemakers that they might need to put an end to the practice, Reuters reported.
The issue arose a few months ago, when the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets' Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services requested clarification from the FDA following reports that several cheesemakers had been cited for the practice of using wooden boards. In a comment that stirred opinions in the industry, Monica Metz, head of the Dairy and Egg Branch of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, stated that wooden shelves were not in compliance with good manufacturing practices, due to their porous structure that could retain bacteria.
However, the FDA stated that it had not changed its policy on the use of wooden shelves, pointing out that previous citations for manufacturers have been related to poorly maintained facilities and poor hygiene of shelves where cheese was stored. The regulator noted that it had never taken action against a cheesemaking company based solely on the use of wooden shelves.
But FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher commented that the agency was considering whether wood met the requirement that all surfaces in facilities should be "adequately cleanable" and was open to evidence from the industry that this was the case.