PROPOSAL P263 - ASSESSING THE SAFETY OF RAW MILK VERY HARD COOKED-CURD CHEESES (PARMESAN STYLE) INITIAL ASSESSMENT REPORT (PREPARE A NEW PROPOSAL – S.21) Summary The Australia New Zealand Food Authority has raised a proposal (P263) to examine the safety of very hard cooked-curd (parmesan style) cheeses made from raw milk. The purpose of this initial report is to publicly notify the raising of a proposal by ANZFA, the reasons for undertaking this work and ANZFA’s proposed course of action. Problem The Food Standards Code requires that milk and milk products for cheese manufacture must be pasteurised or thermised. Volume 1 of the Code requires that milk and milk products for cheese production shall: · be heat treated by being held at a temperature of not less than 72ºC for a period of not less than 15 seconds, or at a temperature and for a period equivalent thereto in phosphatase destruction; or · be subjected to a minimum heat treatment at a temperature of 62 ºC for a period of not less than 15 seconds and has been stored at a temperature of not less than 2ºC for a period of 90 days from the date of manufacture of the cheese. (Standard H9 (1)(d)-(f)) Volume 2 of the Code specifies that milk and milk products used to manufacture cheese or cheese products must: · be heat treated by being held at a temperature of no less than 72 ºC for a period of no less than 15 seconds, or by using a time and temperature combination providing an equivalent level of bacteria reduction; or · be heat treated by being held at a temperature of no less than 62 ºC, for a period of no less than 15 seconds, and the final product stored at a temperature of no less than 2 ºC for a period of 90 days from the date of manufacture of the cheese or cheese product. (Standard 1.6.2 clause 2) Currently, imported raw milk very hard parmesan style cheeses such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano are permitted import and sale in Australia because they are deemed to comply with the alkaline phosphatase requirement in Volume 1 of the Code. During the review of the Code it was determined that the phosphatase requirement was not a reliable indicator of the efficacy of pasteurisation and so this provision was not included in Volume 2 (the Joint Code). This means from the end of 2002, when Volume 2 comes into effect, raw milk parmesan style cheeses will not comply with the processing requirements in the Joint Code. Proposed action ANZFA has raised proposal P263 – Assessing the safety of raw milk very hard cooked-curd cheeses (parmesan style) and has agreed to use section 36 of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority Act, 1991 to progress the proposal, resulting in the omission of the first round of public comment. Initially, a scientific assessment on the safety of parmesan style cheeses will be undertaken by ANZFA. It will then prepare a draft assessment report which will discuss the issues raised and management options available. The public, industry and regulators will then have an opportunity to comment on the draft assessment before a final assessment is prepared.