Cheeses Made from Raw and Pasteurized Milks

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Government concerns about the danger of the various pathogens that can grow in milk led to the U.S. requirement (originating in 1944, reaffirmed in 1949, and extended to imports in 1951) that all cheeses aged less than 60 days be made with pasteurized milk. Since 1948 there have been only a handful of outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States caused by cheese, nearly all involving contamination of the milk or cheese after pasteurization. In Europe, where young raw-milk cheeses are still legal in some countries, most outbreaks have also been caused by pasteurized cheeses. Cheeses in general present a relatively low risk of food poisoning. Because any soft cheese contains enough moisture to permit the survival of various human pathogens, both pasteurized and unpasteurized versions are probably best avoided by people who may be especially vulnerable to infection (pregnant women, the elderly and chronically ill). Hard cheeses are inhospitable to disease microbes and very seldom cause food poisoning.