Raw milk camembert poses safety concern, says manufacturer

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Raw milk Milk

A leading France-based cheese manufacturer claims that authorities responsible for protecting traditional manufacturing techniques of camembert will eventually be forced to stop using raw milk in the product because of potential health concerns.

Luc Morelon, a spokesperson for the France-based dairy processors Lactalis, claimed that a recent vote permitting only the use of raw untreated milk for "true" camembert would some day have to be overturned by the French government.

The comments come after producers voted this month in favour of allowing only raw milk to be used in making the product as part of a revision of the production specifications for the Appellation Contrôlée (AOC) Camembert de Normandie.

An AOC is a French designation similar to the EU's geographical indications (GI) system, that requires certain French goods like cheeses and wines linked to specific areas of the country to be made under specific guidelines.

The relevant AOC is currently undergoing public enquiry, and the findings will then be submitted to the competent committee of the Institut National de l'Origine et de la qualite (INAO), which is responsible for the designation.

The INAO will then form a draft proposal of these findings to be considered by the French government.

However, Morelon says that under these specifications, Lactalis did not wish to claim the AOC for its own camembert products, as it refused to use raw milk in the cheese.

He pointed to the occurrence of pathogenic micro organisms in the product that makes raw milk a potential danger.

Morelon cited a case in 2005, where five children in the country were hospitalised because of an alleged contamination of E coli 026 in some raw milk camembert.

He stated that while the risk may be weak, it exists nonetheless and could not be ignored by Lactalis.

"We have strong brands and well known products, with strong consumer confidence, and we cannot accept to take a risk on that issue," Morelon said.

"It is quite unacceptable."

Lactalis itself says it uses thermised milk - a soft treatment for the product of no more than 60 degrees Celsius, in its camembert, which allows it to secure pathogens without changing the taste.

Thermised milk is not allowed in cheese permitted under the AOC, though Morelon claimed that the recent decision made on the designation wer distorted in favour of raw milk manufacturers.

Nonetheless, on the AOC Camembert de Normandie website, the committee claims that raw milk camembert worthy of the designation was bound by strict production techniques.

According to the AOC definition milk used within the production was be fully compliant with legal requirements, with sourced livestock proven to be free tuberculosis and brucellosis.

In addition, the milk must used must also free from condensed or dried forms of the product, and colouring substances.

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