Cheese makers process under federal scrutiny

Cheddar cheese wheels chill at Springside Cheese factory near Lena.

OCONTO COUNTY - A traditional cheese making technique is under scrutiny from the federal government.

For years, producers put cheese blocks on wooden boards as part of the aging process, but the Federal Drug Administration says wood can attract bacteria.

Now, the guidelines may be changing.

The owners of Springside Cheese near Lena are watching the issue closely.

They produce 6,000 pounds of cheese every day. Cheese wheels are aged in coolers for up to a year. Cheese makers say disposable cardboard covers the wooden shelves.

Springside Cheese vice president Keith Hintz says the factory made the switch years ago.

"As a preventative measure in our facility, we weren't able to effectively clean our wood surfaces, so therefore we made a change so that we didn't raise an issue for our consumer," said Hintz.

The Food and Drug Administration says it has no policy against using wooden shelves in the aging process.

In a statement a spokesperson Lauren Sucher says, "In the interest of public health, the FDA's current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be 'adequately cleanable' and properly maintained."

The FDA says it will meet with cheese makers to find a solution to the problem.