FDA Reconsidering 60 Day Rule For Raw Milk Cheeses

This isn't news for some people. But I've heard rumors for awhile now that the FDA's so-called '60 day rule' is under re-consideration, though because all of the mentions have seemed so fleeting, and no one in the cheese world seems to be talking about it much, I wasn't quite sure if it was true. Now I can confirm for certain that the issue is indeed under review.

The current rules (for the full legalese, see here) allow cheesemakers to sell cheeses made from raw milk IF the cheeses are aged at least 60 days. This restriction has been the source of much controversy among cheesemakers and cheese aficionados for years, who believe that the 60 day rule unfairly limits the craft of making cheese.

So I asked the FDA Office of Public Affairs about this last week, and here's what they had to say:

With regard to the [60 day rule], we are reconsidering the rule because we've discovered that pathogens are capable of surviving beyond 60 days. We are still examining the risk factors and it's too early in the process for any discussion about how/when we'll proceed.

In fact, reconsideration has been on the FDA's radar since at least 1997 at the recommendation of the Office of the Surgeon General, according to this document (Download Document) which the FDA forwarded to me.

Part of the reason there hasn't been much talk about the issue is because the FDA has not initiated any formal action to change the rule. The rulemaking process involves, among other things, posting notice in the Federal Register, hearings, and a public comment period (more specifics here). You might be more familiar with administrative rulemaking in the context of environmental regulations, which have had quite a bit more media coverage in the past few years.

I was not able to get any information from the FDA about a timeline on reconsideration of the rule...but this is going to be something to watch, for sure.