Monday, March 15, 2010

Slow Food - the campaign for Australian raw milk products

I moved to London for a few years and ended up eating way more cheese than I had thought possible. Having grown up with a mild lactose intolerance, I had mostly stayed away from all dairy products, and also in part because locally they just never interested me.

However, since sharing house with a Frenchman, who occasionally received care packages of French cheese, my exposure to cheese was greatly expanded and in a good way! I discovered that not all hard cheeses are made equal .. They don't all have to taste like Coon; my favourite being Beaufort ... Not an absolute favourite though since I also like Gruyere .. Like wine, the age of a cheese influences it's flavour; newer cheese being more mellow, older cheese being more flavoursome. I also learned that Brie and Camembert did not cover all types of soft cheese .. I even managed to find and eat Stinking Bishop cheese! (For those of you who are curious, it does stink - especially after your French flatmate decides to age it in a cupboard - but has a very delicate taste.)

So why the massive difference in cheese varieties? The answer lies in pasteurisation. Pasteurisation involves heating milk to a certain degree to eliminate all micro-organisms. This is to ensure that all milk and dairy products are safe for consumption.

In Australia it's mostly illegal to produce dairy products with unpasteurised milk. These rules are governed by a national body called Food Standards Australia New Zealand ("FSANZ") who is currently assessing the use of raw milk. FSANZ also govern the import of raw milk cheeses from overseas.

Slow Food Australia are trying to lobby for these rules to be loosened so that Australians can enjoy the benefits of being able to work with raw milk. I read about their campaign and signed their online petition, but have since been notified that the initial draft assessment issued by FSANZ seems to be in favour of further restricting the use of raw milk. To further their cause, they will need the support of many more people! So here is where you come in ...

You can read more about this campaign here.

You can sign an online petition here.

I am all for ensuring that products are made safe for consumption, but since there is a long tradition of unpasteurised cheeses overseas, surely we can be trusted to make our own judgements on what we choose to eat?

Sugar and spice and all things nice,
la chouquette sucrée


  1. It's crazy that we can't get raw milk cheese!

  2. I know! It seems hypocritical for FSANZ to agree to importing such cheeses where clearly there is some demand for it, and at the same time deny Australian producers to have a go.

  3. I'm curious as to whether your lactose intolerance was impacted by unpasteurised vs pasteurised or did your condition improve of its own accord before you started eating it?

  4. I suspect the latter - when I was younger, drinking milk regularly brought on a bad case of runny nose .. It still does but takes longer and is much, much milder - so much so that I don't really consider it a hindrance.

    I had quite a few allergies as a child that appear to have been cured by puberty. I consider myself v.lucky!

  5. Heartily agree! Got an unpasteurised Epoisses de Bourgogne for Christmas some years ago (still one of the best pressies I've ever received)and later on found a pasteurised one, there is no comparison. The pasteurised version was bland and tasteless compared to the liveliness on the tongue of the original version. Sign me up for the campaign!

  6. BTW, in the email that I received from Slow Food Australia, they included a 'warning' about the request for a donation if you use the online petition. This does not go to Slow Food but the people who host such online petitions. If you choose not to pay, your online 'signature' will still count towards their campaign! Please spread the word! We have such a tremendous foodie community - I wait to see what Australian producers can do with raw milk!

  7. Hear hear. Unpasteurised = unplastic-like. You haven't lived if you haven't been intimate with micro-organisms.

  8. What a great idea. We can make so many nice cheeses in Australia I think we should branch out to raw milk products. As long as its properly regulated and consumers are aware of the risks (if any) I don't see a problem.