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Feds nab raw-milk cheese in California food-safety case

January 28, 2011 |  4:58 pm

Federal prosecutors have busted central California outlaws they describe as pale-skinned and somewhat smelly, with mug shots worthy of Bon Appetit: 97 wedges of raw-milk Gouda cheese.

On Thursday, U.S. marshals and Food and Drug Administration agents arrived at Tulare County cheese maker Bravo Farms and seized the Gouda, along with piles of Edam and blocks of white cheddar. All told, investigators have locked up more than 80,000 pounds of cheese. Prosecutors say it is all headed for the garbage disposal.

Concerns over the cheese -- now impounded at the farm in Traver -- came out of a recall of the award-winning artisan producer's Gouda due to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak late last year in California and four other states.

You can read more about what's happened at Bravo Farms Cheese here.

Among other things, the seizure raises questions about the safety measures taken by small food producers -- and whether it's economically feasible (or fair) for them to be held up to the same rules as larger commercial operations.

This issue came up with the recent passage of the federal food safety bill. The law included an amendment that exempted food producers from the new requirements if they had less than $500,000 a year in annual sales, and sold the majority of their food directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers within the state or within 275 miles of where the item was produced.

These producers would, however, continue to be overseen by local and state food safety and health agencies.

To learn more about this issue, check out the video below.

-- P.J. Huffstutter