Raw milk artisans disappearing in Quebec cheese dilemma

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Raw milk Milk Pasteurization Cheese

While pushing to meet growing potential interest in North America for unpasteurised cheeses, producers from Quebec are increasingly questioning using raw milk in their goods amidst wider safety fears, says one industry expert.

Similar health concerns have already been conveyed by leading France-based multinational Lactalis, despite fervent criticism from other processors in the country that claim raw milk-derived cheeses are safe, high quality products.

In the final part of a series on the challenges facing international production of raw milk cheeses such as camembert, DairyReporter.com looks at the difficulty facing processors in the province of Quebec regarding health concerns.

Pierre Nadeau, chief executive officer for industry group the Quebec Dairy Council, says that a number of cheese batches cross-contaminated with listeriosis last year may have significantly dented demand for unpasteurised cheese.

Declining artisans

Nadeau said that of the 40 cheese makers once operating in the region producing goods like camembert and brie derived from raw milk, the number had nearly halved as the industry seeks new processes to make their brands.

He claimed that the industry was already facing a slight set back after the discovery last year of two batches of cheese containing the bacterial infection listeriosis, before further cross contamination compounded the issue.

“As a result, some people felt that, to prevent major loses to their operations, they could either turn to full- or partly-pasteurised (thermised) milk,”​ stated Nadeau.

The dairy chief suggested that a growing number of manufacturers had questioned the viability of sticking with unpasteurised cheese, since the outbreak of the listeriosis scare.

“We are left with less than half [of the sector] continuing with raw milk,” ​he stated.

Nideau says that unlike its counterparts in the culturally and linguistically linked country of France, the unpasteurised cheese sector remains a smaller artisan area for manufacturers.

However, while little data currently exists on the amount of exports, he added that, on an anecdotal basis, there was thought to be growing interest in unpasteurised cheese products in wider markets, such as some North Eastern US states.

In this market, authorities in Quebec reportedly announced a CAN$8.4m (€5.2m) investment scheme in a bid to help revive the province’s cheese industry back in October.

The funding was unveiled in order to support measures such as interest-free loans for artisanal cheese makers in financial difficulty following the listeriosis crisis, as well as promotional activities, reported local media at the time.

Access on the funds was said to be dependant on implementing stricter controls on quality, safety and staff training, according to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC).

The first article in this series can be found here​.

Related topics Regulation & Safety Cheese

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