As the inaugural Food Freedom Fest gets under way in Staunton, VA, on Friday, it only  seems appropriate that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should show its true colors and prohibit French raw milk cheeses….for having too much good bacteria. 

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that a number of popular French raw milk cheeses have been prevented from being brought into the U.S. because they have what are suddenly deemed too many harmless E.coli bacteria. These are the sort of bacteria these cheeses have contained for hundreds of years, and part of why they are considered delicacies worldwide. But new FDA standards have suddenly made these good bacteria….forbidden fruit. 

The L.A. Times is notable for not only raising its eyebrows over the FDA’s judgment, but even quoting a food safety expert questioning the FDA: “The limits for nontoxigenic E.coli were cut from 100 MPN (most probable number) per gram to 10 MPN. These are bacteria that live in every human gut; they are typically harmless and we coexist happily. The FDA considers them a marker for sanitation: If a cheese shows even modest levels of nontoxigenic E.coli, the facility that produced it must be insufficiently clean. Dennis D’Amico, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut who specialty is dairy microbiology, says this premise is flawed.” 

I hate to say this isn’t a surprise, because it isn’t. The FDA has been heading in this direction ever since Dairy Director John Sheehan in 2004 took aim at the 60-day aging rule for cheese that has been in effect since the late 1940s, and has seemed to work well, in that raw milk cheese causes very few illnesses in the food safety scheme of things. 

But as we’ve known for a long time, this isn’t about safety. This seems to be about helping giant American food corporations retain market share, first at the expense of small American producers, and now at the expense of French producers….even if it means depriving Americans of important sources of good bacteria. This from the L.A. Times article, quoting an American cheese producer, now worried about whether his company will be able to deal with ever-hardening FDA restrictions: 

“People need some microbial diversity in their life. This is going to create people with immune systems that can never handle anything.” 

The silver lining here is that the FDA is now targeting gourmet items that many politicians, entertainers, medical professionals, and others in mainstream America highly value. Will that begin to clue people in to finally appreciating the real FDA agenda?