Friday, June 17, 2011

New Farmers' Market Cheese Rule Defies Logic

I called the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets yesterday about its new prohibition on the custom cutting of cheeses at the state's farmers' markets.

Unfortunately, the food safety people weren't around, but I was told someone would get back to me today.

While waiting for that call I'll have more time to figure out what our government officials were thinking. Traditionally, most cheese makers at the markets cut cheeses to order on site, which allowed customers to buy as big (or small) of a piece as desired. The vendors displayed their cheeses under glass or plastic protection, a great tool to attract passers-by not familiar with the product.

Now, no more cutting, ostensibly (no call yet from Albany) for food safety reasons having to do with the refrigeration, handling and cutting of the cheese. (I'll get into the issue of whether certain cheeses even need to be refrigerated soon.)

If this is the case—what else could it be?—here is my first question for Ag & Markets:
"Why are the cheese makers still allowed to offer samples of their cheeses, which are not refrigerated and handled in the exact manner as the custom cutting was for years?"
What am I missing?

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