The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has played down reports of an import crackdown on popular French-made mimolette cheese.
According to reports from the US and France, around half a tonne of mimolette cheese was refused entry into the US in March 2013 by FDA officials over concerns that the cheese was infested with mites.
Mimolette cheese, which is traditionally manufactured in Lille, France, houses microscopic cheese mites as it matures. These mites are brushed off during maturation, but evidence of their presence can be seen on the pitted surface of the cheese.
According to the media reports, FDA inspectors based in New Jersey detained the mimolette shipments after they discovered levels of cheese mites above acceptable levels. A high concentration of cheese mites on the products would have put consumers at risk of an allergic reaction, the reports added.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com yesterday, FDA media officer, Pat El-Hinnawy denied that an import ban had been placed on mimolette but defended any action the FDA may have taken to detain the shipments.
“No ban on importing mimolette”
“The FDA does not have any information about specific import refusals, but we can tell you that, in general, there is no ban on importing mimolette cheese into the US,” said El-Hinnawy.
“However, it is important to note that all food products exported to the US must meet US food standards.”
“We do surveillance sampling of imports; when we find a violation of US law, we may take action to refuse the product entry into the US,” El-Hinnawy added.
Benoît de Vitton, the North American representative for French cheese exporter Isigny Sainte-Mère, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the company has been importing mimolette into the US for around 20 years, but since the beginning of March the FDA has been giving them “a hard time.”
DairyReporter.com approached France-based Isigny Sainte-Mère in regards to the FDA crackdown on mimolette, but no reply was received prior to publication.
Save the mimolette ‘Let us eat stinky cheese’
In response to the detention, around 40 cheesed-off protesters, dressed in orange, held a demonstration last week in New York to show their support for the French cheese.
A Facebook page called ‘Save the Mimolette’ has also been set up by a US-based French journalist, urging an end to the alleged block on imports.
“No to the mimolette ban in the US! Let us eat stinky cheese,” the Save the Mimolette page exclaims.