Would you be surprised to learn that brie, despite its popularity, is actually illegal in the United States?
This delicious, creamy, soft cheese originates in France and is enjoyed worldwide, so why not in America?
The legality of brie in the US is the subject of much debate, and there are many misconceptions and myths floating around the internet.
Is brie not allowed because it is made with raw milk?
What about the fact that brie is made with rennet, is that the reason?
Is it simply to do with food health and safety regulations?
So, let’s find out the truth about the brie prohibition!
Traditional brie is made from unpasteurized, raw milk, which is considered a health risk by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unpasteurized milk may contain harmful bacteria such as E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. These bacteria can lead to the onset of serious illness, and pregnant women are particularly susceptible. Thus, the FDA has implemented stringent restrictions on the importation of products made from unpasteurized milk. Not only brie but also camembert and other raw milk cheeses. The aging period is also a concern, as US regulations state that cheese must be aged for 60 days, and brie is typically aged for a shorter time.
Is Brie Illegal Because It Is Made from Raw Milk?
I thought I would start by clarifying some of the thoughts on why brie is prohibited to establish if they are correct.
The most common reason for assuming brie is illegal is that if made in the traditional way, it uses raw, unpasteurized milk.
Now, if that’s the case, as it is in France, then yes, the FDA does not allow the importation of the product.
Unpasteurized milk has not been treated by heat and, therefore, could have some bacteria that are harmful to human health.
These include Listeria, E. Coli, and Salmonella, and I am sure you have read many reports of just how ill they can make you.
Pregnant women, the very young, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system are particularly at risk.
So, it’s perfectly understandable that the FDA wants to protect us from foodborne illness.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t purchase any brie.
There are many varieties of brie on sale that are made from pasteurized milk.
They may not have the authentic taste of French brie, but they are more than acceptable.
Is Brie Prohibited Because It Is Made with Rennet?
Now, let’s bust this brie internet myth once and for all!
Many people believe that brie is prohibited because it contains rennet, and this is sourced from animals.
If you are not familiar with rennet, it’s an enzyme that is used during the cheese-making process, and its purpose is to coagulate the milk.
It’s actually produced in the stomach of certain young mammals, particularly calves.
But these days, less than 5% of the cheese produced in the US is made from animal rennet.
The majority of cheese, including brie, is made from vegetarian rennet.
Rennet is not illegal, no matter its source, so this is not one of the reasons why brie is illegal in the states.
Is Brie Illegal in America Because of Import Restrictions?
Now, we come to somewhere near the truth about the restrictions on brie!
Considering what I have said above, we can establish that brie is not actually illegal in the states.
Providing it is made with pasteurized milk, and irrelevant of whether it contains rennet or not, brie can be purchased in America.
However, if we are talking about authentic French brie, then it cannot be imported.
This restriction is imposed by the FDA in the interests of health and safety.
We also need to look at another fact about brie, and that is the length of time that it is allowed to age.
It is a fresh cheese and is aged for as little as two or three weeks.
This, again, does not meet the FDA requirement that cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days.
Realistically, you are not going to find any traditional, authentic French brie in the states!
Eight Famous Cheeses That Are Banned in the US
- Traditional brie is made from unpasteurized milk, which may contain harmful bacteria
- These bacteria can cause serious illness
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict rules on the importation of brie
- Typically brie is aged for just a few weeks, and this contravenes the 60-day rule imposed by the FDA
- It is possible to find brie on general sale in the US, but it will be made with pasteurized milk
I hope this cleared up a few misconceptions about the legality of brie!
If you are interested in learning more about rennet, you may wish to read one of my other articles.