Adding opportunities for cheese manufacturers

by Keith Nunes
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Cheese production
Regulatory changes and ingredient innovations enhance the cheese-making process.
 

KANSAS CITY — The Food and Drug Administration said Aug. 11 that the agency will “exercise enforcement discretion” regarding the use and labeling of fluid ultrafiltered milk (U.F.) in certain cheeses and cheese-related products. The U.F. process involves using filtration to remove some of the water and lactose from fluid milk, increasing the protein content and reducing its total fluid volume.

The agency said it is taking the action due to recent changes in some export markets, most notably Canada, that have caused U.S. dairy processors to experience an oversupply and pricing challenges with domestically produced U.F. milk. The enforcement discretion is intended to mitigate, in part, the impact on U.S. companies producing U.F. milk, while the F.D.A. considers rulemaking concerning the issues about the use and labeling of U.F. milk.

On March 1, Canada introduced a new grade of milk called Class 7 that is comparable to U.F. milk that U.S. dairy processors export to Canada duty free. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada maintains high duties on many imported dairy products, but products with 85% or higher protein, which includes U.F. milk, may be exported duty free. The new class of Canadian milk created a difficult competitive situation for many U.S.-based milk processors that had sprung up along the border to export U.F. milk to Canadian cheesemakers.

The F.D.A.’s announcement gives the processors of U.F. milk a market into which to sell their products. In the past, the standard of identity for the labeling of many cheese products prevented the use of U.F. milk in manufacturing.

“Today’s action by F.D.A. falls squarely within the philosophy of the current administration to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens,” said Michael Dykes, the president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association. “After lagging for more than two decades, it is good to see the regulations on the use of U.F. milk are catching up with this safe and sustainable production technology, which is already used around the world.”

The F.D.A. encouraged manufacturers of standardized cheeses and related cheese products to identify fluid ultrafiltered milk and fluid ultrafiltered nonfat milk, when used as ingredients, as “ultrafiltered milk” and “ultrafiltered nonfat milk” when feasible and appropriate. But, the agency said, it does not intend to take action against companies that manufacture standardized cheeses and related cheese products that contain fluid ultrafiltered milk or fluid ultrafiltered nonfat milk without declaring them in the ingredient statement, as long as their labels declare milk or nonfat milk in the ingredient statement.

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