Boy do I know how to have fun; cleaning up the yard after a wind and snowstorm (that carried sub-freezing temperatures), and doing the bi-weekly chicken house cleaning (sorry, no eggs yet). Between those tasks, I have been reading up on the genesis of the 60-day aging of cheese (21 CFR 133 et seq.). I plan on doing a longer piece, yet I still find it odd that the “60 day rule” has been around so long (over ½ a century) without a lot of apparent recent thought to it.

raw-milk-cheeses-590.jpgIn a nutshell, the FDA generally requires that cheese be aged for a minimum of 60 days at a temperature of not less than 35°F made from pasteurized or raw milk. This requirement was put in place because it was believed that such an aging process acted to reduce the level of pathogens present in the cheese, thus making it safer for consumption.

However, apparently, several years ago, researchers at South Dakota State University published a study showing that 60-day aging was largely ineffectual in reducing levels of E. coli O157:H7 in certain cheese. Since then, research by Dr. Joseph Schlesser of the National Center for Food Science and Technology in Summit-Argo, Illinois, also has supported the finding that 60-day aging is largely ineffectual as a means of reducing levels of certain pathogens in cheeses.

So, FDA, why does it take several years, and the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Gouda cheese, to start a real dialogue on the “60-day rule?’