America’s Cheese Crackdown: The Tale of Banned Brie
Brie is not illegal in the US, but there’s a restriction on importing Brie made from unpasteurized milk unless aged over 60 days, due to health risks. Pasteurized Brie is legal and widely available. This regulation aims to protect consumers from potential bacteria in raw milk.
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 traditionally, 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.
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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 produced in the stomachs 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 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!
Exploring the Forbidden Fromage: Unveiling the Cheese Taboo in the US
When it comes to understanding what cheese is illegal in the US, the plot thickens beyond just Brie.
The American cheese aficionado might often wonder about the tantalizing array of French cheeses illegal on this side of the Atlantic.
It’s not just about a simple dislike for certain cheeses but a stringent safety measure.
The primary reason for cheeses being banned in the US, including some beloved French varieties, is the use of unpasteurized milk in their production.
This raw element, cherished for its contribution to flavor and texture, is also a haven for harmful bacteria.
Take, for example, the famed Camembert, Roquefort, and certain versions of Brie – all fall under this category of French cheeses considered illegal or heavily restricted in the US.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains strict guidelines that prohibit the sale of cheeses made from raw milk that hasn’t been aged for 60 days.
This aging process is believed to kill harmful bacteria, but it also changes the cheese’s character, often leaving it less creamy and pungent than its European counterpart.
For cheese lovers, this legal landscape creates a bittersweet reality.
While safety is paramount, many gourmands mourn the lack of access to authentic, raw milk cheeses that Europeans enjoy.
As a result, an underground cheese market has even emerged, where enthusiasts seek to experience these banned delicacies.
This intrigue around what cheeses are banned in the US only adds to the allure of these forbidden fromages, making each bite of legal alternatives a reminder of the vast, untasted world of cheese that lies across the ocean.
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.
What’s your next step in exploring the world of cheeses?
Will you seek out a pasteurized version of Brie, or perhaps try a different cheese that’s new to you?
How do you think these regulations impact the culinary experience and cheese market in the country?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
- Is all Brie cheese illegal in the United States? No, not all Brie is illegal. The U.S. only restricts Brie made from unpasteurized milk. Pasteurized Brie is legal and widely available.
- Why does the FDA ban unpasteurized Brie? The FDA bans unpasteurized Brie due to health risks associated with raw milk, such as potential contamination with harmful bacteria like E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.
- Can I find authentic French Brie in the U.S.? Authentic French Brie made from raw milk is typically not available due to FDA regulations. However, there are pasteurized versions that try to mimic the taste and texture of traditional Brie.
- What is the difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized Brie? Pasteurized Brie is made from milk that has been heated to kill bacteria, while unpasteurized Brie is made from raw milk. The pasteurization process can alter the cheese’s flavor and texture.
- Is the rennet in Brie the reason for its restriction? No, the use of rennet, whether animal-based or vegetarian, is not the reason for the restriction. The main concern is the use of unpasteurized milk.
- How does the aging of Brie affect its legality? The FDA requires cheese made from unpasteurized milk to be aged at least 60 days to reduce health risks. Traditional Brie is aged for a shorter period, typically only a few weeks, which does not meet this requirement.
- Are there any health risks in consuming unpasteurized Brie? Yes, there is a risk of foodborne illnesses from consuming cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, including Brie. These risks are particularly higher for pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.