About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010
Will Studd's Magnificent Obsession
Many more years ago than I care to remember, took myself along to one of Will Studd's masterclasses on cheese. A few things were obvious about him even then, he was as sharp as a tack, what he didn't know about cheese was simply not worth knowing and he spoke his mind.

He had the effortless knack of passing on his message to students of curds and whey, always accompanied by the most appropriate cheese, demonstrating a particular nuance or idea.

We've all followed his travels around the globe in the 39 part series, Cheese Slices, seeking out not just the standard bearers, but unique and different cheeses, giving us not just insights into milk preservation in all its guises, but also a look inside a restless and curious mind.

Despite owning several businesses, this restlessness drove him to emigrate to Australia from England; their loss was our gain.

Studd wrote about arriving on our shores in 1981,

'Fresh produce was abundant and extraordinarily cheap, but when it came to interesting cheeses, there was absolutely nothing. Most of the Australian cheeses available were blocks of industrial Cheddar with strange names such as "Tasty" and "Coon". The range of European cheeses was also extremely limited, and their quality and presentation were depressing.'

He then set about changing this landscape for the better with a drive and passion most usually observed in top sportsmen and women, qualities needed to take on the might of the Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service (AQIS).


A modest Will Studd will most likely hate me writing this; in our interview he kept diverting from himself and coming back to the cheese, but there is no doubt that he has put the world of cheeses into the hearts, minds and mouths of all interested Australians, like no other individual.

It has been a long running battle royal, 14 years to be exact, a battle that has seen a consignment of perfectly good Roquefort dumped at the tip, huge legal fees and seen him labeled as a "food terrorist", a description that clearly rankles Studd.

All this in order to have the right to manufacture and consume in Australia the acme of soft cheeses made from raw milk, which have a superior taste and elegance, unlike that of their doppleganger pasteurised versions, which have had part of their souls stripped out.

The question is, are unpasteurised cheeses really better?

Well, funnily enough, Australia does allow the importation of some unpasteurised cheeses of the hard cooked type - Parmigiano Reggiano, Gran Padano, Pecorino Romano, Comte, Swiss Gruyere, Emmenthal - and ONE blue Roquefort.

When I first showed my wife the cheeses I liked, there was one she could never come at, industrially produced Swiss Gruyere: To her it smelt and tasted like vomit, it was hard not to agree. It was not until she tried unpasteurised Comte, a close cousin of Gruyere, that she actually enjoyed this famous mountain cheese. It was the sweet nuttiness that got her onside, a flavour mutilated by pasteurisation.

Ironically, besides AQIS, Studd has also had to fight the big industrial cheese producers who would like nothing better than to let sleeping dogs lie, to whom change is anathema for it's not in their interests to allow new competition in any form.

But now, a rare chance to change things for the better has presented itself. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is seeking public comment on its recently released proposals (P1007) to change Australian Food Standards for cheese in Australia.

If you love cheese, now is the time to get behind Will Studd by following his suggested answers, or your own if you wish and emailing them to FSANZ. Just be careful with the optional section at the bottom, the questions there are slightly loaded, but you don't need to answer them if you don't want.

Chances like this don't come along very often, don't think that your one submission can't possibly change anything. Think the power of one. If enough people get behind this, we can change the quality of cheeses in Australia, giving our own artisan producers the right to make these unique cheeses and compete on the world stage, as well as the possibility to try offerings from elsewhere.

If you want the opportunity to enjoy a complete range of raw milk cheese in Australia PLEASE make a submission (it’s easy - see Will Studd’s draft submission below).

In summary your submission must:

o be in writing and should be sent by email where possible

o include full contact details

o be submitted by 6pm (Canberra time) 24 February 2010

In order to encourage as many people as possible to make a submission before the deadline, Will Studd has prepared the following draft submission. If you wish to send a submission you may copy and paste the following – adding your contact details and any of your own views or thoughts – and email to: submissions@foodstandards.gov.au

FSANZ has issued a list of questions that indicate areas that they are particularly interested in – Will’s draft covers the first 2 “Overarching” questions (questions in blue, Will’s answer in black), you may also like to answer the “Consumer” questions listed below – otherwise just delete them.

Attached is Will’s summary of the situation FYI. If you wish to read the full FSANZ proposal, it’s available at:

http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/proposals/proposalp1007primary3953.cfm

For full details on making a submission see:

http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/changingthecode/informationforsubmit1129.cfm

copy and send from below here

Submission regarding Proposal P1007 - Primary Production & Processing Requirements For Raw Milk Products

By your name, job title/position, address, telephone number, fax and email address

Overarching questions:

1) The overarching scope of the Proposal is assessing the safety of raw milk products using the Category Framework. FSANZ has undertaken a Technical Assessment based on three Risk Assessments (Raw Cow Milk, Raw Goat Milk and Raw Milk Cheese), a Consumer Study and Nutrition Assessment – Can you identify any aspects we have not covered at this point?

The Proposals exaggerate the risks of raw milk products.

They state that “Because of the potential for raw milk to be contaminated with pathogens, raw milk and products made from raw milk present a high level of risk to public health and safety if there are no control measures to manage the microbiological hazards that may be present.”

It is a false assumption that the risks are “high level” for raw milk products. A more realistic description for raw milk products is “they present an additional risk to public health and safety compared with products made from correctly pasteurised milk”.

2) We have summarised the impacts by option in Table 1 in the Report. Do you have any comments on the overall assessment? Can you identify other benefits and costs to the affected parties?

For raw milk cheese, the overall assessment seems to be far more alarmist than the technical assessment suggests. I consider that the technical assessment indicates that all soft cheese should be placed in Category 2, reserving Category 3 for raw drinking milk alone.

include and answer below if you wish, otherwise delete

Consumers:

3) Would Australian consumers benefit from a greater range of cheeses and dairy products? Please provide details.


4) FSANZ has received comments that raw milk cheeses are likely to be gourmet, high-end market products. Costs associated with ensuring the safety of products may also be passed on to the customer - if raw milk cheeses were permitted:

a. How much would you be willing to pay for such cheeses?

b. Are you willing to pay more than the cost of current gourmet cheeses?

c. Are you prepared to pay more if there are added costs in ensuring the safety of raw milk products?

d. Would you choose to purchase an Australian raw milk cheese over an imported equivalent?
 
  posted at 2:08 pm
  2 comments



2 Comments:
At 9:37 am, Anonymous Elliot & Sandra said...

Hi Neil
A bit late off the mark but I sent them this comment:

The requirement to have only pasteurized milk soft cheeses represents an exaggerated concern about health. No doubt it is a small additional health risk, probably much less than the risk of public swimming pools or not washing ones hands. We do not hear of the French, or other Europeans suffering didasters as a result of their cheese eating habits. I doubt it affects their life expectancy but it certainly adds to lifes pleasures. Cast off your blinkers. Live a tiny bit more dangerously and enjoy it a lot more!

Maintain the passion.
Cheers
Elliot

 
At 10:37 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi elliot, good on you, it's time a bit of pressure was brought to bear.

 

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