I’m no cheese connoisseur. I’m usually happy with American or provolone, and I’ll even go for that Philly favorite, Cheese Whiz. But I understand that some people have more refined tastes, and they feel very strongly about the issue. And they get very upset when their favorite cheese is taken away. The Washington Post reports on a recent instance of this:
For centuries, microscopic mites have been part of the process for making Mimolette, a mild-tasting cheese shaped like a cannonball and electric orange in color. For decades, the cheese has been imported from France and distributed to shops and grocery stores across the United States.
That is, until this spring, when the Food and Drug Administration began blocking shipments of the Gouda-like product at U.S. ports, leaving thousands of pounds of it stranded in warehouses from New Jersey to California.
The FDA says inspectors found too many cheese mites per square inch crawling on the cantaloupe-like rinds of Mimolette, raising health concerns. But it hasn’t explained exactly why it began holding up the cheese shipments after decades of relatively few problems. “The only thing we can do is cite our regulations, which show very clearly that our job is to protect the food supply,” FDA spokeswoman Patricia El-Hinnawy said.
Mimolette is a beloved French cheese produced for hundreds of years around the city of Lille. It looks somewhat like a ripe cantaloupe and tastes not unlike classic Dutch Gouda, to which it is related. Its distinctively pitted rind and hard-to-pin-down taste both arise from the action of microscopic cheese mites that are deliberately introduced to its surface as part of its production. Mimolette has been imported to specialty cheese shops in the United States for many years without incident, but now it’s come to the attention of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is afraid that someone might have an allergic reaction to lingering remnants of the insect helpers (which are mostly removed in processing before final shipment). Now a large quantity of the expensive cheese is sitting in a warehouse in New Jersey, legally frozen, while its American fanciers prepare to go without.