“No more Morbier? It’s a possibility.”
Photo credit: George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Times
“Los Angeles cheese counters [and Puget Sound’s] could soon be a lot less aromatic, with several popular cheeses falling victim to a more zealous U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Roquefort Frances top-selling blue is in the agencys cross hairs along with raw-milk versions of Morbier, St. Nectaire and Tomme de Savoie.
In early August, these cheeses and many more landed on an FDA Import Alert because the agency found bacterial counts that exceeded its tolerance level. Cheeses on Import Alert cant be sold in the U.S. until the producer documents corrective action and five samples test clean, a process that can take months.
Of course, French creameries havent changed their recipes for any of these classic cheeses. But their wheels are flunking now because the FDA has drastically cut allowances for a typically harmless bacterium by a factor of 10.
The limits for nontoxigenic E. coli were cut from 100 MPN (most probable number) per gram to 10 MPN. These are bacteria that live in every human gut; they are typically harmless and we coexist happily. But the FDA considers them a marker for sanitation: If a cheese shows even modest levels of nontoxigenic E. coli, the facility that produced it must be insufficiently clean.