Quarterly updates on the American Cheese Society’s efforts to promote, preserve, and protect traditional cheesemaking.
President Obama recently asked his National Economic Council (NEC) to identify industries that are innovative, growing, and supporting local economies. In his time left in office, he would like to do what he can to highlight such industries and find ways to remove barriers to their advancement. ACS was honored to be invited to discuss issues of concern in the artisan cheese industry with NEC advisors last week. After an initial conversation, we were asked to submit suggestions as to how Obama’s attention and support might benefit industry members. Six areas of focus, ranging from the protection of raw milk cheese to national recognition of American Cheese Month, were submitted for consideration. We hope this will spur further discussions with the White House, and ultimately lead to greater awareness, visibility, and growth for American artisan cheesemakers.
ACS has built strong communications channels with FDA in recent years, and one of the most responsive ears has belonged to Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. Taylor recently informed us that he will be leaving the administration on June 1 and he will be replaced by Dr. Stephen Ostroff. ACS will continue to move our relationship with FDA forward in a positive direction by working with Dr. Susan Mayne, Director of FDA’s CFSAN, and we will ensure that Dr. Ostroff is up to speed on issues of concern to our industry.
As a follow up to the meeting that ACS participated in last month with FDA, we have established the following steps to begin the process of developing realistic, science-based preventive controls for raw milk cheesemaking:
- Conference call with regulators, scientists, and academics to find common ground as far as research and data sources, goals, and the potential impact on producers.
- In-person meeting with a broader group of technical experts to review data and align with real world practices, to ensure feasibility of preventive controls. ACS will ensure that raw milk cheesemakers have a seat at the table so that any preventive controls reflect current best practices and the realities of operating as a smaller producer.
- Several cheesemakers and academics are simultaneously pulling together an initial framework for what such preventive controls might look like. This may inform the work ACS is undertaking to develop these controls in tandem with regulators.
Remember: If your business earns under $1M in revenues annually, you are considered a “Qualified Facility,” exempt from FSMA preventive controls. Learn more by watching this ACS webinar: “FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food: Exemptions, Requirements & Deadlines for Very Small Businesses” (use password acsmember).
A great deal of information about artisan cheese and production facilities has been collected by FDA through its sampling programs in recent years. In order to work effectively with regulators, it is imperative that stakeholders have access to these data. ACS has requested these data from FDA, and has two FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests pending at this time. We hope that data will be forthcoming within the next few weeks, and will keep members posted.
After ACS Cheese Camp in Providence last summer, an Artisan Cheese Food Safety Forum was held to look at food safety issues and resources unique to our industry. The Forum was supported by a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to the University of Connecticut (UConn). The organizing group included members from UConn, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, and the Innovation Center for US Dairy. Participants included government representatives, manufacturers, retailers, consumer and industry groups, trade associations, scientists, and food safety educators.
Among the outcomes was the clear mandate that ACS is the go-to resource for artisan, farmstead, and specialty producers. As such, ACS is continuing its involvement by participating in the Artisan Cheese Advisory Council that grew out of the Food Safety Forum. In May, Council members will meet to determine the best sources, direction, and delivery methods for the valuable food safety resources to which all producers should have access. ACS has offered its Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers as a potential framework which the Council might consider in advancing access to safe cheesemaking practices for producers.
The 2nd Annual Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day takes place on April 16, 2016. Thanks to our friends at Oldways for keeping consumers aware of the importance of #rawmilkcheese through their mission “to inspire good health through cultural food traditions.” ACS members can participate by hosting an event, tour, or tasting that showcases raw milk cheese. You might even throw a Cheese Party to celebrate traditional cheese and “Make America Grate Again!”
Also in the works…
- ACS Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers – the full Guide will be released April 1. Look for an email with a link and please share your feedback with us!
- 2016 U.S. Cheesemaker Industry Census – producers should keep an eye out in their inbox next month, and be sure to participate in this important survey to help ACS gather data and show our industry’s #StrengthInNumbers.
- IDFA Regulatory RoundUP – ACS will have a representative from the Regulatory & Academic Committee on hand at this gathering, June 13-14 in Washington, DC, to gather first-hand information to share with members.
- American Cheese Month is now in its sixth year! Get ready to make some noise to support American cheese this October! It’s not too early to start planning.
- The Cheese Party – 2016 is an election year, and you can vote for cheese by downloading free campaign posters, buying fun Cheese Party swag, or making a donation to support the American Cheese Education Foundation!