Slow Food in Australia today launched a public campaign to give artisan cheesemakers the right to produce – and consumers to eat – Australian raw milk cheese. The campaign calls on Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) – the authority responsible for Australian food regulation – to enable Australian artisan cheesemakers to make and market quality raw milk cheese, and for the development and enforcement of safety and labeling laws and regulations that will maintain Australia’s integrity as a ‘clean food’ nation.
‘When skilfully made, cheese retains the inherent and distinctive qualities of the milk used in its making. Cheese expresses diversity through seasonal and local characteristics, and the art of its maker, like no other food’, said Raw Milk Cheese project co-ordinator Michael Croft. ‘The Australian cheese we eat today is pasteurized, sanitized and uniform. Science is being used to limit our choice of cheese. We cannot make and market Australian raw milk cheese. We cannot taste it. We are denied the experience of the unique characteristics of this primary food.’
‘When you pasteurize milk, you deprive it of its soul,’ said Slow Food President Carlo Petrini, speaking at the Sydney Opera house last week. ‘With a raw milk cheese, you can taste the breed of the animal, you can taste the grass it ate, if it comes from the mountains, hills or valleys, the expertise of the cheesemaker…Pastuerizing milk kills all of this – the taste becomes standardized’.
Raw milk cheese production has a long history in Europe. It can now also be produced in Canada and the United States and production will shortly be allowed in New Zealand. Australian law currently permits the import of raw milk hard-curd cheeses from France and Italy, but denies the right for Australian cheesemakers to use unpasteurized milk. ‘The laws that do not allow Australian cheesemakers to produce raw milk cheeses or Australian people to choose them are utter stupidity’, Petrini declared. ‘We won the fight in the USA, and we can win here.’
FSANZ will decide early next year if food standards are to be changed to enable the making and sale of Australian cheese from raw milk.