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FDA clarifies stance on use of wooden boards in aging cheese

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Many Wisconsin cheese-makers are still nervous about their futures -- even after the FDA agreed to get more input before banning wooden boards in the cheese aging process.

The Food and Drug Administration recently called the practice unsanitary. Wednesday, the agency said it would work with artisan cheese producers to see if there's a safe method for using wood -- which cheese-makers have used for years to create their unique flavors and textures.

Rene Weber of Emmi-Roth USA said a categorical rule would be devastating for Emmi-Roth and others who try to make high-quality cheeses. Weber said the industry's nervousness would remain "until the final statement of the final ruling is out."

Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel is credited for the partial reprieve. He asked the FDA to take a second look.

The FDA has said that wood cannot be sterilized adequately -- and small amounts of Listeria and other unhealthy bacteria could remain after the boards are cleaned.

However, Milwaukee and Sauk County cheese-maker Bob Wills said there's never been a product recall due to contamination from wooden boards.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)