The purpose of this study was to prevent food-borne illness associated with cheese and cheese products. The methodology used was conducting domestic inspections of cheese firms, sampling and testing domestic and imported cheeses, and taking appropriate action when violations were encountered. For FY04, 707 domestic inspections, 392 domestic cheese samples, and 1136 imported cheese samples were evaluated. The major findings of the report include: growing number of small manufacturers making soft- fresh, soft-ripened, and/or raw milk cheeses; inadequate pasteurization was the most serious problem found in domestic inspections; and the largest area of concern was seen in imported cheeses. There were several countries that had over 50 entries in FY04 with a high percentage of sampled product, which was violative. These included Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic that had respectively 90.9, 61.9, 57.1 and 50 percent samples violative. Finally, consumption of un-pasteurized soft Mexican cheeses has been linked to a resurgence of brucellosis and tuberculosis in the United States. The report makes several recommendations: (1) Prioritize inspections to look at small manufacturers, i.e. artisnal and farmstead cheese manufacturers producing high-risk cheese that distribute cheese in interstate commerce; (2) Increase scrutiny in certain areas of inspections, including: product handling techniques; pasteurization, i.e. recording chart review; post process contamination (i.e. brine quality, conveyor belt design/cleanability, cleaning, and ripening rooms), as well as pest control, personal hygiene, milk filtration, and storage conditions; (3) Shift some resources from monitoring French and other European Union cheeses to monitoring more problematic areas such as South and Central America, Eastern European countries, and the Middle East by issuing field assignments, import bulletins, and/or import alerts; (4) Develop methods to detect Brucella and Mycobacterium bovis in cheese and cheese products and include testing for these organisms in the compliance program once developed.
PIC ID: 8248; Agency Sponsor: FDA-CFSAN, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Federal Contact: Metz, Monica, 301-436-2041; Performer: FDA, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Washington, DC