FDA Begins New Sampling Assignment
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a new field assignment for the sampling of both domestically produced as well as imported cheese.

FDA plans to collect 600 to 800 samples:
  • 200 samples of raw milk cheese, and
  • 600 samples of the other types – brined, soft mold ripened, blue and bacterial surface ripened. These latter types may feature raw or pasteurized milk as an ingredient and include fresh mozzarella.

The samples will be tested for Listeria species, Staphylococcus aureus, and staphylococcal enterotoxins. They will not be testing for generic E. coli.
Domestic samples will be taken from manufacturing facilities. The samples of imported cheeses will be taken while the cheeses are in import status – for example at ports of entry or nearby warehouses.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA will pre-announce each collection visit. Extra precautions will be taken to ensure the safest possible environment for employees of cheese manufacturers and FDA field staff. FDA will provide their field staff with criteria and instructions for conducting sampling during the pandemic, outfit them with PPE, and will ensure that they adhere to all applicable local, state and CDC guidance. The FDA anticipates that this sampling assignment will take until 2022 to complete.

If a sample tests positive for the above organisms of concern in a domestic sample, the FDA will notify the responsible firm as soon as possible once testing is done. They will work with the firm to take action as warranted to protect public health, and to identify the cause of the contamination.

FDA has engaged in targeted sampling in recent years of unpasteurized cheese, artisan cheese, and Hispanic styles, which have thus far resulted in finding few problems with contamination. We encourage members to review Chapter 10 of the ACS Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers for further information on inspections and product sampling. Additional resources can be found on the Safe Cheesemaking Hub. The FDA website also provides information on Sampling to Protect the Food Supply and Microbiological Surveillance Sampling: Testing to Support Prevention Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

We will share additional details if and when they are made available to us.
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