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Concerns raised over federal clamp down on soft-ripened cheese

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WASHINGTON, WI (WTAQ) - A national study has Wisconsin cheese-makers wondering if Washington will clamp down on products made from raw milk.

The Food-and-Drug Administration says the risk of disease from eating soft-ripened cheeses made from raw milk is 50-to-160 times higher than eating cheese from pasteurized milk.

Wisconsin plants which make such products insist they’re safe if the process is done right.

The FDA says bacterial infections from listeria produce some of the highest death and hospitalization rates involving pathogenic bacteria.

As a result, the agency it’s studying whether a 60-day aging process for raw cheeses from unpasteurized milk is enough to kill harmful bacteria.

The Saxon Homestead Creamery near Sheboygan says it goes beyond the government’s 60-day aging requirement – because it takes longer to develop its cheeses’ unique flavors.

Saxon says it uses only milk from its own cows to reduce the risk. But John Umhoefer, head of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there are bad apples – and when they cause outbreaks of illnesses quote, “The whole industry cringes.”

That reasoning convinced former Governor Jim Doyle to veto a bill in 2010 that would have allowed sales of raw milk itself under certain conditions. The Journal Sentinel says 22 Wisconsin cheese-makers made products from raw milk.

The FDA is taking public comments on its report through April 29th.

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