Artisanal Cheesemaking in Europe

A Guide for Good Hygiene Practices receives the endorsement of the European Commission.

The inadequacy of the hygiene rules for artisanal produce is almost unanimous. When it comes to milk, the damage done to traditional food heritage has been critical.

The Slow Food network has always been on the front line worldwide to defend these products and their producers as well as to advocate for flexibilities on hygiene rules. In order to do so, the Slow Food network collaborates with hundreds of farmers, associations and organizations. The Farmhouse and Artisan Cheese & Dairy Producers European Network (FACE network) is one of Slow Food’s main allies in this regard.

In recent years the FACE network has developed a guide for good hygiene practices for artisanal cheese and dairy products. Last December the guide was endorsed by the European Commission and the 28 Member States of the European Union. It is now an official reference document for farmhouse and artisan cheese and dairy producers as well as the competent authorities in each Member State.

Remedios Carrasco, coordinator of the FACE Network in Spain for the association Que Red, explains the importance of this work: “All too often artisanal producers are asked to respect the same requirements and controls done for the industry. This creates a lot of problems even threatening their work. This guide has been prepared for artisanal producers and concerns regular controls for quality and food safety. These controls may be visual, tactile, or organoleptic. The value of experience and know-how is upheld and used as a control tool against danger. With this guide, producers will have the necessary documentation to demonstrate that any such dangers are under control.”

In many countries, small scale cheese and dairy producers have struggled to convince their governments that their products meet the requirements of European regulations despite the flexibility allowed in the European Hygiene Package. This flexibility covers the application of the regulations according to the size of the producer and the “traditional” character of the products made. However, the Hygiene Package is not used in the same way across EU Member States, which threatens the future of artisan production in some parts of the continent. Slow Food and Artisan Food Law have written a dossier on the topic.

The work on the Guide for Good Hygiene Practices commenced in 2015, involving a team of 21 experts from 15 countries. It will be valid for each Member State of the European Union and will be presented at a conference in Brussels the 15th of November. It is possible to download the guide here.

Cheese is an event by Slow Food and the City of Bra. To find out more about what we do, visit www.slowfood.com

 

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