Government Wants to Be “the Big Cheese” So We Can’t Make it Anymore

Government wants to be “the big cheese” in every way in every area of life. That’s why we can’t have nice things.

I saw this mentioned in some libertarian blogs a couple of days ago, but now it has received mainstream attention. The FDA has, without any reason to show that health and wellbeing is endangered, decided to obstruct the production of quality cheese. As the San Francisco Chronicle headlined a nice slideshow of scenes of cheese, “FDA decision puts cheese-making in peril.”

The New York Times explains,

A decision by the Food and Drug Administration to question the use of wooden planks to age some cheeses has produced a stink that rivals Limburger, prompting an uproar among the artisanal cheese makers and consumers who fear they might lose access to products like obscure blue cheeses from Vermont and imported Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The agency recently interpreted a decades-old regulation requiring that cheese-making equipment be designed and constructed of material that is “adequately cleanable” in ways that made it appear that wood, which has been used for centuries to help age cheese, was no longer sanitary enough.

“The porous nature of wood enables it to absorb and retain bacteria, therefore bacteria generally colonize not only the surface but also the inside layers of wood,” Monica Metz, chief of the dairy and egg branch of the Office of Food Safety, wrote in a letter to the New York State Agriculture Department at the beginning of this year.

For some styles of cheese, wood is an essential part of the process. It aids in the control of moisture that helps form rinds on big wheels of English Cheddar and small, delicate washed-rind cheeses. It also provides an amenable surface for the microbes that add flavor and character to cheese.

But the wrong bacteria can sicken consumers, which is what the F.D.A. was trying to control with its initial decision.

The cheese-makers are pushing back through the internet. As outrageous as this situation is, it really misses the point to focus on this bad decision as the reason to oppose the agency.

The scandal is not that the Food and Drug Administration, in addition to its many other crimes, is destroying an industry that is far older than it is. The scandal is that anyone has to obey the Food and Drug Administration. The scandal is that we have unelected overlords who can dictate to us how to prepare food (and being required to elect them to office really wouldn’t make it OK, either).

Who died and made them god?

(I’ll answer my rhetorical question: Liberty died.)

Once we’ve established that it is a scandal that anyone has to listen to these dictators, we can point out how callously and stupidly they act. As far as I can tell, they didn’t even know what they were doing when they made up the rule.

The New York Times story goes on to document how arbitrary the FDA has been in applying their rule. We should allow our understanding of food liability to develop through the courts, as case law is formed through lawsuits and judges’ decisions. We should not be using a dictatorial bureaucracy.