Many of the most awarded and well-respected American cheeses are aged on wooden boards, according to Cheese Underground. “The very pillar that we built our niche business on is the ability to age our cheese on wood planks, an art that has been practiced in Europe for thousands of years,” Wisconsin cheesemaker Chris Roelli—who developed his cheese recipes specifically to be aged on wooden boards—told the blog.
Not allowing American cheesemakers to use this practice puts them “at a global disadvantage because the flavor produced by aging on wood can not be duplicated. This is a major game changer for the dairy industry in Wisconsin, and many other states.”
Cheesemakers importing to the United States will be subject to the same wooden board ban, which in effect means we’ll just miss out on a lot of cheese imports. The European Union—not generally known to fuck around on food safety—is totally cool with the use of wood boards in aging cheese (as is Canada). In fact, certain types of cheese must be aged on wood in order to get the designation (Comte, Beaufort, Reblochon).
Update from Overlawyered: Government Backs Down
In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).