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CFR 20 Part 133: Pass The Cheese, Please

Mar 26, 2014

Before concluding our month-long conversation on dairy, we must take a moment to acknowledge the unrivaled versatility, variety (over 2000!), and vitality of cheese. Without cheese, there would be no pizza. Without cheese, there would be no enchiladas. And without cheese, there would be no grilled cheese sandwiches!

It would be preposterous to consider hosting a wine and cheese party featuring fruit and crackers only (imagine what the French would say). Additionally, it's very challenging to imagine the classic American cookout consisting of just hotdogs and plain hamburgers (how unpatriotic). Indeed, cheese is omnipresent and omnipotent!

So, just how much of this soft gold does humanity actually devour? Well, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, in 2011 the U.S. consumed cheese in the following manner:

U.S. per capita consumption of natural cheese increased by 0.36 pounds over the 2010 amount, reaching a level of 33.50 pounds, the second highest amount on record.

The largest consumption increase in 2011 was for Italian-type cheeses, which were up 0.36 pounds per person to 14.80 pounds, setting a record for the second straight year. American-type cheese consumption decreased slightly, dropping by 0.14 pounds to 13.18 pounds per person. Consumption of other than Italian or American cheeses increased by 0.14 pounds to 5.52 pounds per person.

The most consumed types of cheese in the U.S. are mozzarella and cheddar. Mozzarella cheese per capita consumption reached a new record high of 11.43 pounds in 2011; the previous record was 11.25 pounds per person set in 2010. Consumption of cheddar cheese declined for the second straight year; down 0.29 pounds or 2.8%.

Volume sales of natural cheese in U.S. Food and Drug Stores reached approximately 2.272 billion pounds in 2011, with a value of over $11 billion dollars. The top three cheese types that accounted for the largest volume sales were Cheddar (36.7%), Mozzarella (20.9%) and Colby Jack (9.3%). Together, these three account for two-thirds (66.9%) of the volume sales of natural cheese. The top three also account for almost $7 billion dollars (62.5%) of the $11 billion dollars in sales.

Even with such strong numbers in terms of volume and value, America's per capita cheese consumption in 2009 didn't even crack the top-five global standings according to this chart from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board:

International Cheese Consumption

With domestic and international demand robust with growth, the production of all types of cheese must maintain an equal or greater escalation or the potential for a, dare I write, cheese shortage could emerge. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the EU currently leads all regions of the world regarding output, but the U.S. is the number one individually producing country.

Though some farms or companies specialize in one or two varieties, putting all their milk in one vat so to speak, other, large-scale manufacturers may churn out (pun intended) over twenty! Regardless of size, however, the federal government maintains guidelines on the production, labeling and distribution of cheese under CFR 20 Part 133. This section of our much referred to document not only provides general temperature thresholds for pasteurization, shown in the table below, but specific ingredients, process steps, and labeling terminology on over seventy-five varieties like asiago, colby, gouda, gruyere, muenster, provolone and swiss. Additionally, the pasteurization requirements for processed cheese similar to what is found inside a compressed can or plastic container, or amongst other processed food items like fruits, vegetables or meats.

Compliance with rules respective to specific cheeses ensures safety and quality for consumers and is enforced by federal inspectors. If violations are found, timely warnings can be disseminated to the public and, based upon the degree of the error, penalties issued to the liable firm. The latest validation of these guidelines and oversights involves a March 2014 recall of Hispanic-style cheeses after the CDC confirmed eight reports of listeriosis and a subsequent FDA inspection discovered related bacterial strains at an inadequate Delaware production facility.

Avoiding a similar catastrophe involves maintaining the structural integrity of the plant in use, imploring employees to keep themselves and their workstations sanitary and monitoring the environmental conditions of individual process stages, like pasteurization and storage. Temperature and humidity requirements vary by cheese type, which means recording and storing data for twenty varieties or more can be quite the daunting task if done manually.

Temp/Time Requirements for Pasteurization

Temperature Time
145 deg. F 30 min.
161 deg. F 15 s.
191 deg. F 1 s.
204 deg. F 0.05 s.
212 deg. F 0.01 s.

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Written by:

Chris Monaco, Covert Content Creator

As a man of many achievements, Chris Monaco is Temperature@lert’s newest Covert Content Creator. Hailing from Beverly, MA, Chris is armed with a trifecta of degrees, from a BFA (Maine at Farmington), to an MFA (Lesley University), all the way up to his most recent achievement; the coveted MBA from Suffolk University. Outside of his academic travels, Chris has added many international stamps to his passport, including: Seoul, Korea and Prague, Czech Republic, wherein Chris taught English as a Second Language to dozens of international students. His hobbies include writing, skiing, traveling, reading, and the world of politics. His personal claims to fame include two cross-country car trips through the U.S. and a summer’s worth of courageously guiding whitewater rafting trips. Chris’ ideal temperature is 112°F, the optimal temperature for a crisp shave.

Chris Monaco Temperature@lert

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