Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Petition for raw milk cheeses + FOOTNOTE

I received the email below yesterday from Adam, and am adding it here in case anyone might want to sign the petition mentioned:

"Just wondering if you could post a link to a petition for raw milk cheeses on your site? It's run by the Slow food organisation, and I think it might be worthwhile putting on your site as I believe there may be a few interested parties here. Here's the link:

http://slowfoodaustralia.com.au/projects/australia/raw-milk-cheese/ "

FOOTNOTE Wed 18th November 2009

I just received the below from Nick Haddow:

"Rita, thank you for raising the topic of raw milk cheese. It is great to see Slow Food again getting behind it. The dialogue that usually accompanies this subject often contains mistruths and flawed facts and some of the comments to this post are no exception.

I hope you won't object to me spelling out some of the facts on this subject.


1. Raw milk cheese is legally made in every cheesemaking country in the world except for Australia and New Zealand. (NZ is changing their legislation next year to allow raw milk cheese production which will leave Australia on its own).

2. Raw milk cheese is often said to be of better character. However, I have tasted some pretty crap raw milk cheese in my time and I have had some stunning pasteurized milk cheeses. Flavour is also a very subjective thing and is not really on the regulators radar. Instead I believe the two overwhelming reasons for wanting to make raw milk cheese is that it is a true expression of the cheese makers craft and that it can be made safely.

3. Hygienic practices are relevant to all cheese, pasteurised or otherwise. That is why there are far more incidents of food poisoning from pasteurised cheese cheese globally each year than from unpasteurised cheese.

4. Pasteurisation of milk to make it safe for consumption is an excellent practice.... but only when it is necessary. Mandatory pasteurisation laws make the assumption that all milk contains pathogens at levels which will not be controlled through the cheesemaking process. This assumption is wrong and comes from a time when milk traveled long distances under poor refrigeration. On-farm dairy practices, milk transportation and cheesemaking practices have improved greatly in the past few decades and the use of pasteurization as the main safety step is no longer critical.

5. Consumers have a choice as whether they wish to eat raw milk cheese or not. I beleive strongly in the power of people making their own informed decisions and as such think all raw milk cheese should be labelled clearly.

6. Products can be tested prior to release to minimise the risk to public safety. All my raw milk cheeses are tested on a batch by batch basis - far above the statutory requirement of fortnightly testing of representative samples.


1. Only a small percentage of the population is susceptible to Listeriosis. Most of the the population come in contact with Listeria on a very regular basis and are completely fine.

2. About 30% of the population carry Listeria bacteria in their gut as part of their naturally occuring gut flora (the figure is higher in menstruating women).

3. There are 7 strains of Listeria, only one of which is pathogenic - L. monocytogenes.

4. Listeria is an ubiquitous environmental pathogen which can become airborne on dust or water droplets. It can tolerate very high levels of salt and very low levels of water.

5. Hard cheese is thought to be safe from Listeria as it provides an environment which is not conducive to the growth of Listeria. Maturation of cheese is seen around the world as an acceptable process to reduce levels of Listeria in cheeses which have tested positive. Australia however does not recognise maturation as acceptable step and requires all cheeses which have tested positive to be heat treated and turned into processed cheese.

6. Listeria generally only grows on the surface of cheeses (the outside 2mm).

7. Pasteurization destroys Listeria. As pasteurisation is compulsory, all occurrences of Listeria in the dairy industry occur through pasteurisation failure or post-pasteurization contamination.

8. There are many other foods which pose a higher risk in terms of Listeria than cheese. Cheese is a fermented food - fermentation is a preservation process. Fresh vegetables, processed seafood, rainwater, salad mixes, processed meats... in comparison, cheese presents few problems.


1. Listeria was found only in some of our pasteurised milk cheese. None of our raw milk cheese has ever tested positive for Listeria.

2. The listeria event at Bruny Island Cheese Co was restricted to a very definite period of production. No raw milk cheese was made during this time. Therefore, raw milk cheese production had nothing to do with our contamination.

3. Our raw milk C2 is probably the safest cheese we make due to the cooking step and the length of maturation.

4. It has never been identified what the cause of our contamination was despite the efforts of the TDIA, the DHHS and Tom Ross, Professor of Food Microbiology at UTAS who we engaged to investigate and advise us during the period of the contamination. All procedures and practices were reviewed and none were found to be the cause of the problem. The most likely cause was that the pathogen entered the factory as an airborne pathogen (we have since made alterations to the building to prevent this happening again).

Sorry about the rant Rita, but I hope this fills in some gaps for you.

Nick Haddow

Bruny Island Cheese Co."

Many thanks for sending the above, Nick. It helps a lot to get a frank and honest explanation of the facts. I appreciate you sending this to me, and hope all will view it in the light of recent comments here.....

Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

Sorry but I don't agree with the production of raw milk cheeses. Maybe that was the problem with the Bruny cheese recently?

Anonymous said...

Why not? Ever had raw milk cheeses? Ten times better than any pasteurised cheeses you can get...

Anonymous said...

We dont need more Lysteria thank you v much

Anonymous said...

Oh chicken licken the sky is falling down, run hide be afraid, be afraid of it all.
Why stop at cheese, ban chicken, shellfish, rainwater, peasprouts, alfalpha, fresh vegetables (who knows where they have been), kidney beans, milk, deep sea fish, coca cola, wine, beer, noodles and absolutely ban rice.

Or on the other hand, be sensible, and look at the facts.

Anonymous said...


Why can't we have cheeses that are full of flavour that show the true character of the cheese and the expertise of the producer? And isn't it important to have the ability to make a choice - as grown adults and informed consumers - between pastuerised & unpasteurised cheese?

Anonymous said...

I just dont want to be poisoned by someone who dosn't follow hygenic practices-is that so bad?

Anonymous said...

That may be but practices will be put into place that won't allow that to happen. Its pretty rare for poisoning to happen. In fact, it is more likely to happen with pasteurised cheeses to some extent. Most other countries are allowed to produce raw milk cheeses and you never hear of problems with it.

Anonymous said...

And what makes you so certain that they won't follow hygenic practices? No instead ban anything and everything, its a wonder we drive cars, after all, there may be bad drivers.
If anything it ups the ante a bit and ensures safer practices and tighter regulations. Last time I looked the Europeans were not dropping like flies from eating unpasturised cheeses or using wooden chopping boards for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Last anon you sound hysterical.

The trouble is all you pro raw milk lot get all reactionary when your views are called into question, feather flying. Cant you stand another viewpoint or is your the only one?

History has shown us recently that some cheese operators are not able to ensure clean working conditions using pasteurized milk already-why should we the public be subjected to the risk of consuming raw milk cheeses.

Here's a thought.
Get the other cheese right before we consider the raw milk debate.

Tassiegal said...

Errr, you can just not eat it.

Anonymous said...

Don't you know tassiegal... If we start making unpasteurised we HAVE to eat it. Despite the fact we would have a choice between pasteurised and unpasteurised.... (rolls eyes)

It might actually create some jobs and money.. There's a thought.

lemon curd said...

Fantastic well reasoned rebuttal to the hysteria Nick. Particularly agree with your comments re: choice.

What's wrong with the production of unpasteurised milk cheeses? You run as much of a risk having a fresh made caesar salad at a restaurant because of the raw egg used in the dressing! But this is allowed as long as safe preparation is used. Why should raw milk cheeses be any different?

steve said...

On that last point about caesar dressing with raw egg. Many councils now insist that pasteurized egg product now be used for all emulisfied egg sauces that are not cooked. Since the Pitts poultry/Venus cafe incident many are gun-shy at the possibility of litigation.

As a bone fide cheese lover, I would like to see a variety of cheeses here in our Australian landscape, both imported & local.

The problem seems to me be that some people think the raw milk lobby is being pushed by a few people who have a vested interest in importing the raw product from overseas.
Conversely, in the other corner, are a few artisnal cheesemakers who see a potential for the overseas product to flood the marketplace & thus rob them of what is arguably already a considerably small market share.
This is a simplified version of a complex issue however it has the potential to derail & distract from the legitimate argument for bringing our dairying enterprises into alignment with the rest of the world.

Perhaps this reticence to embrace raw milk cheesmaking says much about our alleged sophistication of all things culinary in this country when bureaucracy makes decisions about issues that they are not at all familiar nor comfortable with.

Adam G said...

Nice work Nick. There is nothing wrong with raw milk cheeses and there is definitely nothing wrong with Bruny Island Cheeses. I am really glad you stepped up and gave some cold hard facts.

Really glad I asked Rita to post the link...

I'm anon 5:29, 6:54, 7:05 & 10:15pm btw. I might actually put my name to this thread now... lol! Got a memory like sieve...

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you have cleared the air in an imformative and dispassionate way Nick.
I had always regarded Lysteria in particular as an anerobic pathogen, I had no idea that it was also aerobic. But then this shows how ones understanding of these matters can evolve and why it is important for us all to keep abreast of the science in kitchens.
I think that Australia has shown the world in its isolation that it can innovate and become a world leader in its produce. Australia is an adaptable nation unconstrained by such things as appelation controlee. But it needs to lose some of its fear. As an outsider I do feel that it is a little bit of a nanny state.
That said, I have no great opinion on the pasturised or raw milk debate, more if it tastes good then it is good.
As for safety, we all follow it, we are inspected regulary, we update constantly. bacteria is a fact of life. Pure bad luck can be a factor though. I wonder how many people poisen themselves at home as to versus those who eat out.


Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

"The most likely cause was that the pathogen entered the factory as an airborne pathogen (we have since made alterations to the building to prevent this happening again)"

What specifically has been altered in the building to prevent this? A plastic curtain, strips an air curtain?

Nick Haddow said...

To Anon 3:38. I am pleased that you take an interest in my business but in order to keep this discussion on the subject of raw milk cheese maybe you would like to contact me directly with any questions you have regarding myself or my business. You will find my details on my website if you do not already have them.

Ginger said...

I a a relative newcomer to the local cheesemaking scene and have been delighted about the apparent popularity of my cheeses.

During the development of my cheese types I have experimented with batches of hard cheeses (cheddar, gouda) that have differed only in whether the milk was pasteurised or not. I have then canvassed taste preference (blind tastings) from a range of people including interested friends, experienced restauranters and even TDIA officials (provoked an interesting discussion). I wanted to find out whether it was worth undergoing the large amount of regulation currently required here to extend my licence to raw milk cheese.

The taste preference answer? The difference has been subtle only, perhaps a few more in favour of the raw milk one, but by no means strongly in favour or the raw milk version. For your interest, the TDIA inspectors themselves were split in their opinions.

The discussion that ensued with the TDIA made me realize that I cannot make my cheese types from raw milk under the current Australian regulations. For one thing, the high heat required during the cooking phase would require a different cheese culture, not to mention the change in texture of the cheese.

I agree that choice is important. Also, as a cheesemaker, another point to mention is that there would be a significant saving in time and energy (kW I mean not my kJ) if pasteurization was not required.

However, for now, I will add my name to the petition because I think choice is important, but I will not be rushing to alter techniques just yet.

Belstone Goat Cheese

Rita said...

Thanks to all for your comments here on this topic. Ginger - I'm extremely pleased you added your very considered opinion because I think you have managed to convey in a simple and unemotive way what we're all debating.

Anonymous said...

To Nick Haddow, I'm not sure why you have chosen to not directly answer my question on how you have altered your building to prevent airborne pathogens. Its also curious that you choose to inform us of your situation on this blog but when you are asked a direct question, you then try to manage the message by directing my(or perhaps any other difficult questions)enquiry to your website. You seem to want both ways.
Why do I need to contact your website, I've already asked my question?
I & others are waiting...

lemon curd said...

I'm not waiting Nick. SM - this is a discussion on Raw Milk Cheese, not the BIC.

Anonymous said...

lemon curd, if it was a discussion soley on raw milk cheese why were the BIC practices & explanations bought up by Mr Haddow? Secondly, this discussion will evolve to wherever the comments take it & you should not be trying to stifle free speech & debate

lemon curd said...

Apologies SM, I did post that without proofing it and re-reading it my post does sound a little abrupt.

Nick responded (as Rita wrote) because people commented on BIC as part of the Raw Milk discussion and included a quite succinct overview of the production of Raw Milk Cheeses, the Listeria bacteria, and the problems they faced with it.

I didn’t have a problem with you asking the question, however off topic it was, but I also didn’t have a problem with Nick’s wishes for you to contact him directly! I don’t think it warranted your accusations of him managing ‘difficult questions’.

Certainly not trying to stifle free speech and debate, I just didn't agree with your line of questioning!! :) No more from me as now I'm going off topic!

Anonymous said...

choice! what a good idea.

My concern (small as it is)...can the Tasmanaian boutique cheese makers survive if.... there is just one death/incident/health issue with one producer.
Will it have drastic effects on all the others? will the whole state's reputation be ruined!

Ginger said...

Thank you Anon 20th Nov 12.00pm for your comment. Yes, as a boutique cheesemaker, I feel vulnerable to the possible flow-on effect of such incidents.

Further to my previous post, I wish to make very clear to all that it is quite legal to make and sell raw milk cheese in Australia as long as the current regulations for raw milk cheese production are met. These regulations make production very costly but they do exist. However, these regulations in effect dictate the type of cheese that can be made, which means any that will cope with high cooking temperatures and long storage. Hence it will be a hard style of cheese.

So the debate is really about allowing a wider range, if not all cheese types to be made from raw milk. This is where the 'choice' comes in.

Anonymous said...

Just heard from a tweeter friend that Bruny Island cheese staff got fined(again?) for hygeine issues at Salamanca market today?