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In France, cheese is an art form, and there is a rather heated debate regarding the pasteurization of cheese. Some assert that pasteurized cheese is superior, while others contend there is no difference where taste and quality are concerned between pasteurized and raw cheese.
Unpasteurized cheese, referred to as raw cheese, is made from milk that has not been pasteurized (heated to a temperature above 145° F). This allows the natural bacteria present in raw milk to continue to grow. Many cheese enthusiasts feel that this makes the cheese more flavorful and authentic.
Because of FDA regulations, it is illegal to sell unpasteurized cheese in the United States unless the cheese has been aged for at least 60 days. After this amount of time, harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli will die off, making the cheese safe for consumption. This means that raw cheeses that are meant to be consumed before 60 days of aging, such as Brie and Reblochon, are not sold in the U.S. Pasteurized versions are available, but these tend to be milder and less authentic.
Pasteurized cheese is made from milk that has been heated to at least 145° F to kill off any harmful bacteria that may be present. The bacteria necessary for making certain cheeses are then added back in during production. The difference is obvious, though, since a raw cheese will have an uneven, colorful rind, while a pasteurized cheese will have a monochromatic, even rind. Many connoisseurs say the pasteurization also affects the taste.
As the cheese debate goes on, many Americans say the FDA ban on raw cheeses is unnecessary. They refer to all of the European cheeses consumed with little incident of food poisoning. But still, the FDA holds firm and says they're acting in the best interest of Americans by keeping raw cheeses out of the country. So for now, the French have the corner on the raw cheese market.
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