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Hysteria about listeria

February 5th, 1995

There have been several reports that EC rules relating to listeria in cheese pose a threat to many traditional cheeses, including Lanark Blue, Stilton, Brie and Camembert.
Sunday Telegraph, 5 February 1995, p.30

This classic Euromyth first appeared in 1992 when the Council adopted a Directive on public health rules for the production and sale of raw-milk products. Consultations by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on new dairy product hygiene regulations designed to implement the EU Directive appear to have caused undue consternation among cheese manufacturers and gastronomes.

In reality, neither the British Government, which was at the forefront of demands for such a Directive, nor the European Commission has any intention of banning traditional cheeses or the use of un-pasteurised milk. This is an important industry. Proper hygiene standards will serve to safeguard consumer health and confidence and protect the long-term strength of the industry. The Directive states that milk should come from animals and holdings which satisfy health and safety requirements and which are inspected regularly. The cheese produced should comply with specific microbiological criteria. Checks must be made for listeria, salmonella and other bacteria to which children, pregnant women, the elderly and the ill are particularly susceptible. Assuming a product meets the necessary standards there is no reason for it not to remain on the market. Only cheeses that did not were removed from sale in France.

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