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Collins says FDA's proposed new cheese rules stink

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today is blasting a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will significantly hurt the local cheese industry. The FDA is contemplating banning cheese makers from the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. This process is commonplace among artisan cheese makers operating across New York’s 27th Congressional District.

“This is just the latest example of a federal government hell-bent on regulating everything it can get its hands on,” Congressman Collins said. “The process of aging cheese on wood boards is older than the federal government itself. Once again, the bureaucrats in Washington who are totally out of touch with the real world are arbitrarily introducing new rules and regulations that will hurt local economies, cost people their jobs, and stall business growth.”

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the cheese made by Yancey's Fancy in Pembroke, NY, (Genesee County) is aged on wooden boards. The company recently announced a major expansion aimed at increasing production of the very cheeses aged through the process targeted by the FDA. The company currently employs 120 people.

“The proposal that FDA has made to ban the use of wood for curing cheese will negatively impact our plans to grow the natural side of our specialty cheese business,” said Brian Bailey, VP of Operations for Yancey's Fancy. “My understanding is that the rule was going forward without any discussion with the cheese industry, and apparently without any consideration to the impact that such a ruling would have.

"There is a far greater tonnage of cheese imported into the United States that is cured on wood than what is made in the United States, yet I haven’t heard of any ruling to address that issue either. There is plenty of science that supports wood as a safe material for curing cheese but I’ve seen no evidence to date that science has been considered...Producing safe, quality food is as much our mission and goal as it is FDA’s. Our existence depends on it.”

Congressman Collins is sending a letter to the FDA encouraging them to abandon this proposal immediately. A significant amount of cheese imported from abroad is aged on wood boards and currently not subject to FDA’s scrutiny of this particular aging process. In reacting to the proposal, American cheese makers said the FDA was not acting on sound science or law.

Bob Harker
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As well he should!!

Scott Ogle
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Apparently Mr Collins will waste no tempest for lack of a teapot.

From yesterday's LA Times:

http://www.latimes.com/ood/dailydish/la-dd-end-of-the-cheese-world-avert...

James Renfrew
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The Middle East is collapsing in chaos, but our man in Washington knows what really matters.

Kyle Slocum
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STOP THE PRESSES!!!

Apparently, our betters have reasoned this a rare and unprecedented problem of "big" government over-reach as well...

I'm shocked. Shocked, I say. These lefties are TEA BAGGERS fer Pete's sake!!!!!!

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/sean-long/2014/06/12/hands-my-cheese-libs-p...

Bob Harker
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Collins job is to represent the interests of the district. A huge part of our district is the dairy industry.

You fault him for supporting that?!?!

I didn't vote for him, but don't understand your cynicism.

Scott Ogle
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Bob, if you're addressing me. . .

"You fault him for supporting that?!?!"

No, not at all. I fault him for not being on top of the issue -- being uninformed -- combined with the facile, cynical rabble-rousing (“This is just the latest example of a federal government hell-bent on regulating everything it can get its hands on,” ) of his press release.

Dave Olsen
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I'm no fan of Chris Collins necessarily, but i do agree the federal government over-regulates just about everything it can. Many times there is a sinister cadre of lobbyists behind such a move. Same goes for New York State. Follow the money. Who would benefit from a ban on cheese cured by wood? I don't know, but I'll bet a brick of Horseradish Cheddar someone does, and they lobbied the right political prostitute.

Scott Ogle
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'I don't know, but I'll bet a brick of Horseradish Cheddar someone does, and they lobbied the right political prostitute.'

But Dave, there is no ban in effect, nor is one proposed. It seems Mr Collins was just looking to create a little drama for his constituents. From the LA Times article I posted:

"The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA requirement in effect that addresses this issue," the agency said in an official statement. "Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves."

The FDA is charged with being a watchdog for public heath. Properly maintained wooden curing boards can harbor the desired 'good' bacteria required to produce great cheeses, Improperly maintained boards can also harbor Listeria monocytogenes, which can be deadly, and is something you really and truly don't want in your cheese. You can't detect it in cheese product, but the FDA can, and that's why they inspect for it. I think that's a good thing, and I'm glad for it.

Dave Olsen
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Collins may be guilty of grandstanding. I'm not interested in defending him. And true there was no ban in place, but the wheels were definitely turning in that direction. Public pressure slowed their roll.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/10/fda-banning-aging-cheese-_n_547...

You can find a bunch of similar articles, I used Huffington, because it seems pretty well researched and you can't dismiss them as a conservative mouthpiece.

Jeff Allen
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Scott, in one post you say "I fault him for not being on top of the issue" then in another you say "there is no ban in effect, nor is one proposed. It seems Mr Collins was just looking to create a little drama for his constituents" Sounds like he is not only on top of an issue but ahead of one that directly affects constituent jobs and industry in his district. I, like others, am not a huge fan of Collins, but it sounds like in this instance he is doing what we elected him for...representing our district proactively.

Scott Ogle
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"I used Huffington, because it seems pretty well researched and you can't dismiss them as a conservative mouthpiece."

I don't know about them as a conservative mouthpiece, but I have to question your claim it's well-researched, And I do dismiss it as bad journalism. (It's why I never bother with Huffington)

They can't even get it their headline right:

"Here's Why The FDA's New Cheesemaking Ban Is Terrible News For Artisans"

There is no cheese making ban. There is no cheese ban here, no cheese board ban, no ban whatsoever!

Scott Ogle
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"Sounds like he is not only on top of an issue but ahead of one that directly affects constituent jobs and industry in his district."

You're quite right he should be on top of an issue that effects his constituents, Jeff, no question. If only there were an issue to be on top of. At best it seems he didn't give much thought or research to the issue, since the FDA had clarified its position (i.e. that they had proposed no ban) prior to Collins' press release.

Bob Harker
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Scott, I was actually addressing Renfrow. I agree that Collins needs to be more aware of local issues. I think he's expending too much energy in trying to please the republican powers that be in order to climb the political ladder.

Scott Ogle
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"Scott, I was actually addressing Renfrow."

I take your point, Bob. Thanks.

Dave Olsen
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Regardless of what you think of Huffington, the writer did say the FDA has bypassed its usual public comment interval and was proceeding toward gathering evidence aimed at condemning the wood boards. A definite overstep of a standing process.They are truly another bureaucracy that has far surpassed their intended purpose, sometimes it is politically driven.

Scott Ogle
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"the writer did say the FDA has bypassed its usual public comment interval. . ."

What the writer neglected to say was that since there was no ruling in the offing, no comment interval was required. The writer proceeds from simple omission of fact, to outright factual inaccuracy:

"In this case, the FDA didn't use this process and just went ahead and banned the aging process with little intention of repealing it, which is what has left so many in the cheesemaking industry and the general public in shock."

This is simply not true. There was no ban. There is no ban. There is to be no ban.

"and was proceeding toward gathering evidence aimed at condemning the wood boards. A definite overstep of a standing process."

The FDA's brief is to insure food safety. In this regard, investigation and inspection are no overstep. At worse this was a case of a lack of clarity, and poor communication from a government bureaucracy, which then reasonably worried concerned producers, and then, after the fact -- after the clarification -- was whipped into a frenzy by sloppy internet journalism and a lazy politician.

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