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Food Author Criticizes FDA For "Fear Mongering" On Raw Milk Brie, Camembert, Despite Absence Of Illnesses

BOSTON, Feb. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new joint study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada about increasingly popular soft raw milk cheeses like brie and camembert is "full of holes," according to food and business author David Gumpert.

The 189-page report, "Joint FDA / Health Canada Quantitative Assessment of the Risk of Listeriosis from Soft-Ripened Cheese Consumption in the United States and Canada", concludes there is "a 50- to 160-fold increase in the risk of listeriosis from a serving of soft-ripened raw-milk cheese, compared with cheese made from pasteurized milk."

In a post on his popular blog, The Complete Patient (, Gumpert analyzes the study, pointing out that the supposedly huge risk "is based entirely on estimates and mathematical predictions, rather than real-life data on illnesses from the soft raw milk cheeses."

Indeed, the FDA-Health Canada report itself discloses that over a 23-year period it assesses, between 1986 and 2008, there is "not a single documented illness in the U.S. from listeriosis due to brie or camembert," says Gumpert. In Canada, there were several dozen illnesses from listeria in raw milk cheeses over the same period, but it's not clear whether they involved brie or camembert.

The FDA-Health Canada researchers ignore the absence of illnesses from raw milk brie and camembert and instead focus on a single 2003 survey that measured the presence of listeria in a variety of foods at retail stores in California and Maryland, using that data to work backwards and extrapolate potential dangers at farms and cheese-making facilities, according to Gumpert. He says the FDA's 60-day aging rule for cheese, in place since the late 1940s, has worked remarkably well.

In his blog post assessment, Gumpert urges consumers to take advantage of a comment period that extends until April 29, to let the agency know about their concerns.

David Gumpert is author of "The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights". His latest book, due out in the spring, is "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat". He has previously been a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, an editor at The Harvard Business Review, and is author or co-author of seven books on small business and entrepreneurship.  


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