Guidelines for food safety control of artisan cheese-making

image of Guidelines for food safety control of artisan cheese-making

These guidelines have been formulated as part of the project ”Nordic co-operation between representatives of the sector and food safety inspectors in order to simplify the food safety control of artisan cheese-making”, also known as ”Nordost” (Northern Cheese). The project is financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers and was initiated bythe Nordic work group for ”Food administration and user/consumer information” (the NMF group). The content of the guidelines and the appendices do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Nordic Council of Ministers or the National Food Administration. Artisan cheese-making takes place under greatly varying conditions, which can include everything from cheese-making in tiled dairies to production in primitive summerpasture villages. Nevertheless, irrespective of the environment in which it takes place, the cheese-making process is the same and the same demands apply, namely that the cheese shall be safe for consumers to eat. It is the producers duty to ensure that the cheese does not represent a health hazard, and that it is suitable for human consumption. The objective of these guidelines is to provide support to food safety inspectors in carrying out efficient food safety control by focusing on the relevant hazards associated with artisan cheese-making, but also to disseminate the results of the sub-projects in ”Nordost” to producers and other interested parties. Several of these sub-projects have studied relevant literature and tested equipment that enables simple effective own control by producers.



The difference between risk factors in the past and today

Does cheese-making today differ from in the past? Have the risks changed? Are bacteria more dangerous today than they were previously? Have the risks increased? We do not know the answer to these questions and may never know. Modern cheese-makers cater to a larger market spread over a wider area than their colleagues did a hundred years ago. This means that illness caused by eating cheese can spread rapidly over a widespread area and affect more consumers, and in some cases it may be hard to trace the infection to a specific product. Another problem is that there is now more contact between livestock on different farms, which means that bacteria hazardous to health can spread rapidly. The ability to investigate and discover food-borne illnesses has increased and “new” hazardous organisms are quite frequently discovered, such as verotoxin-producing E.coli bacteria (VTEC/EHEC). Possibly, these bacteria existed previously, but could not be detected by the methods used earlier. Much indicates, however, that they are actually “new” organisms that have developed the ability to cause serious and even fatal illnesses.


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