Australia may lift ban on Roquefort cheese

23rd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, March 23 (AFP) - It's been banned in Australia for a decade but Roquefort cheese is likely to make a comeback here to the delight of gourmands thanks to an application from the French government.

SYDNEY, March 23 (AFP) - It's been banned in Australia for a decade but Roquefort cheese is likely to make a comeback here to the delight of gourmands thanks to an application from the French government.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has recommended that the renowned, blue-veined cheese made from raw sheep's milk be approved for sale in Australia and has opened the suggestion to public comment.

Australia's food standards code currently requires milk used in cheese production be heat-treated to prevent health risks from bacteria such as e.coli and lysteria.

However, raw milk cheeses may be sold if they are considered to have the same level of safety as pasteurised milk and, as such, the French government applied in 2003 for Roquefort cheese to be sold in Australia.

After a year of safety assessment, Food Standards Australia New Zealand has "concluded that if Roquefort cheese is manufactured according to the schedule of regulatory and industry processes provided by the French government, it poses a low risk to the health and safety of consumers."

If passed into code, the cheese matured in limestone caves under Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southwest France could be on sale here sometime after September.

Will Studd, who began importing French cheese into Australia in the early 1980s and who has been awarded the Merite Agricole by the French government for services to agriculture, on Wednesday hailed the recommendation.

"God bless the French government, they stepped in and made an application to change the rules for Roquefort," he said.

Studd has been a vigorous advocate of re-introducing Roquefort cheese to Australian tables, going as far as importing 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of the food in 2003 to allow officials to test it and ceremoniously burying most of it covered in the French flag when they refused.

"I think what it means is that, finally, Australians will have a choice," said Studd, who in 2000 was made an 'Ambassadeur-Maitre Fromager' by the French cheesemakers' guild.

The decision also paves the way for the sale of other raw milk cheeses with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand considering reviewing industry standards to allow local producers to make and sell raw milk products, a spokeswoman said.

"We will be looking at other ways of producing dairy products that means they are as safe as pasteurised products," she said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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