Gabe Luddy, fourth-generation cheesemaker at Vella Cheese Co. in Sonoma, makes his Dry Jack the same way his grandfather and great-grandfather did - he rolls and presses curds into large wheels of cheese, then brines the wheels before sliding them onto wooden racks. There they age, from seven months to several years.

A U.S. Food & Drug Administration statement that became public last week puts Vella's 83-year-old practice in doubt.

In what the agency called a clarification, the FDA declared that wooden racks similar to the one Vella uses "cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized." That, in effect, would make Luddy's cheese impossible to sell. While the FDA late Wednesday issued a statement indicating there is room for compromise, if the original clarification holds, it mayaffect more than Sonoma Jack. The Parmesan you grate over your pasta might also be declared illegal.

Producers all over the world age their cheeses on wood rather than on plastic or metal because its porous surface absorbs excess humidity and prevents unwanted mold. Plus, says Luddy, "It's what gives our cheese its flavor."

Nora Weiser, executive director of the American Cheese Society, a professional organization of 1,500 cheesemakers, estimates that 65 percent of the members of the organization - from farmstead producers with a few head of sheep to major cheddar factories - age their cheese on wood.

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I live in 'Dairyland' USA where there is no shortage of good cheese. Don't mess with our cheese!

Whiskey is also aged in WOODen barrels. Whiskey distillers and drinkers beware! You may be next.

@Tara - you are so right.  Any food processing using wood will be next.

The FDA is so sick!  Meanwhile they're OK with poisoning our food with all forms of chemicals and bacteria!   Is it any wonder people want to grow their own food!

Just remember this is only the vague beginning. Theres tons of these cases waiting to be treated both in the north America and in EU just wait and see.


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