The UK's Food Standards Agency has launched a new food safety initiative aimed at the country's 180 or so specialist cheesemakers.
Many of the 450 specialist cheesemakers in the UK are small-scale operations, with traditional production techniques. The FSA's new initiative, which is being run in association with the Specialist Cheesemakers' Association (SCA), is designed to ensure that even the smallest producer continues to produce cheese safely and to the highest standards.
At the heart of the initiative is a workbook designed to help the producers with the burden of paperwork by systematically documenting production systems and identifying food safety hazards and appropriate controls. The FSA said that production systems were required by law to be adequately documented and recorded.
The workbook will be compiled by producers and environmental health officers and is intended to address issues such as clean milking, the risk of cross contamination from livestock for cheeses produced on farms, the control of bacteria in raw or pasteurised milk, contamination from poor hygiene practice and the environment, survival of pathogens from incorrect cheese acidification, temperature controls and preservation techniques.
Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: "The Food Safety Management system gives cheesemakers a practical way in which to demonstrate excellence in standards of production and hygiene and to provide continued assurance to cheese-loving consumers. I strongly urge cheesemakers and enforcement authorities to take advantage of this opportunity to work together."