Final Report for FNE01-363
Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE01-363
This project worked to develop a food safety/quality control program for farmstead cheese makers in New England. The goals of the project were to:
1. Create a formalized food safety/quality control program to assure consumers that the cheeses made by the participating farmstead cheese makers are safe;
2. Develop the program as a model for all farmstead cheese makers in New England;
3. Generate data from milk and cheese analyses to form standards and Best Manufacturing Practices (BMP’s) for farmstead raw milk cheese makers in lieu of pasteurization.
A cheese safety program was established for each participant which reduced the risk of placing contaminated cheese on the market. Three control points were monitored to determine the incidence of microbiological contaminants entering a representative sample of raw milk and cheese. Control point #1 was the safety and quality of raw milk, control point # 2 was the cheese making procedure, and control point # 3 was the safety of cheese prior to sale.
The risk reduction program was effective in controlling contaminants, improving milk quality, and assuring the production of safe cheese. There was a larger percentage of Grade B and unsaleable cheese compared to the previous year so the program did not necessarily assure high quality. The participants learned that improvements in quality must be made by greater emphasis on quality control in each cheese-making operation. The participants also felt strongly that the milk testing was very helpful and made arrangements to continue the milk testing portion of the program.
The program cost for each farm was $270/month so the risk reduction program did not produce economic gains for the participants since there was no increase in the quantity of the best grade of cheese.
Bruce believed that the program was effective and proposed that experienced dairy microbiologists and technicians become involved in a larger discussion concerning the best strategy to assure safe farmstead cheese production. He would like the results to act as building blocks for the construction of a regulatory system that concerns itself with farmstead cheese. He would also like to see this system used as a model for future efforts to create risk reduction programs for other small-scale cheese businesses.