More variety on the cheese platter

Tuesday 26 February, 2013

As New Zealand’s big cheeses honour their industry’s best at the Cuisine Cheese Awards tonight, they can also celebrate the country’s first registered producer of raw milk cheeses.

Just prior to Christmas the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) gave approval for Aroha Organic Goat Cheese to start commercial production of their raw milk Goudas.

While New Zealand cheese lovers have had access to a variety of imported raw milk cheeses for a number of years, this will be the first time they will be able to enjoy a domestically-produced product.

“This is a milestone for our cheese makers,” MPI Deputy Directory General Standards Carol Barnao says.

“Raw milk cheese production is new territory for us and getting to this point has been a huge learning curve for both MPI and Aroha Organics,” Ms Barnao says.

“Aroha Organics’ owners John and Jeanne van Kuyk have shown tremendous passion and commitment throughout this process. They have brought experience in raw milk cheese making from their native Netherlands to the table, which has been invaluable.”

It has taken several years to develop Aroha Organics’ Risk Management Programme, which identifies the food safety hazards and other risks associated with the production of their raw milk cheeses and outlines how these hazards and risks are controlled.

Raw milk cheeses are inherently higher risk than pasteurised products, because there is no heat treatment step to kill potentially harmful bugs. For this reason Trans-Tasman regulation requires that any products made with raw milk must be labelled as containing unpasteurised or raw milk.

This allows consumers who are most at risk from foodborne illness (the very young, the very old, pregnant women and those that are immuno-compromised) to avoid these products.

Aroha Organics raw milk Gouda will include a voluntarily warning statement for vulnerable consumers.

The first ten batches of Aroha Organics’ raw milk Gouda will also be used to validate that their Risk Management Programme is working properly. After that the company will continue to have oversight and verification by their verifier.

As for the van Kuyks, they are thrilled about their raw milk cheese registration.

“Born and raised in a country where raw milk products were on the daily menu, it has always been our dream to produce raw milk cheese so we can give our customers that choice,” Mrs van Kuyk says.

“Cheese making for us is the whole package. It starts with looking after the land and our goats – and the trophy at the end is a beautiful, handcrafted, healthy cheese that represents the passion and love for what we do.”

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