~The easiest operating principle for American life is to assume that everything you like is illegal. If it isn't, it soon will be. For a thousand years, cheese - real cheese, that is; not the orange rubber sold under that name at Price-Chopper - has been aged on wooden boards. But that's no reason not to crack down on it. Enter the US Department of Agriculture's Office of Food Safety and Nutrition's Dairy and Egg Branch:
In a response early this year, Monica Metz, chief of the dairy and egg branch at the FDA's Office of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, wrote that using wooden boards for aging cheese doesn't conform to established good manufacturing standards because the boards cannot be "adequately cleaned and sanitized."
One of the problems with scrupulously "sanitized" food is that it doesn't taste of anything very much, which may be why people consume it in large quantities: With food, if the taste doesn't satisfy you, you chow until the sheer quantity does. I've no research on the subject and my theory may be as full of holes as a Swiss cheese, but the fact is that the federalization of food has coincided with the massive expansion of obesity in America, and I'm inclined to think these two things are not unrelated. But don't worry, wood-aged cheese is not technically illegal, yet:
The FDA tried to clarify its position Tuesday, saying that Metz's reply was merely a response to questions, not a statement of policy. The agency said in a statement that it has no new policy in place and has never taken an enforcement action "based solely on the use of wooden shelves."
Late Wednesday, the FDA released another update, reassuring cheesemakers that the agency has little interest in cracking down on the age-old use of wooden boards and calling reports to the contrary inaccurate.
"To be clear, we have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese," the FDA said in the statement, acknowledging that the language used in its correspondence with New York regulators "may have appeared more definitive than it should have, in light of the agency's actual practices on this issue."
The FDA's initial explanation offered little clarity — and apparently little comfort — to specialty cheesemakers from New York to Wisconsin to California, who worried that their livelihoods may be upended over something they say has never caused a problem.
So, if I understand correctly, it's still just about non-illegal but Cheese Commissar Metz does not approve so she may just send in the odd FDA SWAT team to raid your fromagerie and keep you on your toes. Because that's how the hyper-regulatory state rolls - especially when it comes to cheese:
No formal ban has been put in place, but 1.5 tonnes (3,300 pounds) of cheese were blocked from being imported, and nothing is going through US customs.
That's how they killed the Mimolette market in America: "No formal ban has been put in place". They just seized it, informally.
~These are small losses, but profound ones. The big cheeses of the food regulatory regime in this country are tyrannous. As I wrote a few months ago:
What's the point of a First Amendment and a Second Amendment if a cowed citizenry meekly goes along with the proposition that a seven-year-old girl selling lemonade on her front lawn requires the approval of the state?
That was in a piece on the Great Cupcake Crackdown in the woefully misnamed Madison County, Illinois. Eleven-year-old Chloe Stirling was making around 200 bucks a month selling cupcakes, so naturally she had to be stopped. Madison County told her she needed to build a separate restaurant-standard prep kitchen at her mom and dad's home:
Health Promotion Manager Amy Yeager told the Post-Dispatch, "The rules are the rules. It's for the protection of the public health. The guidelines apply to everyone."
But Chloe decided she wasn't going to take it from the Cupcake Commissars. So she went to the state legislature and got the law changed:
Twelve-year-old Chloe Stirling's cupcake crusade will taste sweet success today when Gov. Pat Quinn signs a bill in her Downstate kitchen to spare home bakers from some government health and business regulations...
Quinn thanked Chloe for standing up for small entrepreneurs. "Democracy is for everyone and I salute Chloe Stirling for getting involved and making a difference for a cause she believes in," he said.
Yeah, right. Governor Quinn is a statist goon whose administration fought this reform very vigorously until the publicity proved too much. At which point the oleaginous creep decided he might as well stage a photo-op in Chloe's kitchen, which I'll bet stuck in the "Health Promotion Manager"'s craw far more than any of Chloe's cupcakes. But it's a textbook lesson in Milton Friedman's great dictum: Don't wait to elect the right people to do the right things. Create the conditions whereby the wrong people are forced to do the right things.
That's what Chloe did. And if a Sixth Grader can do it so can you.
~I talk about Friedman's maxim in After America, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore. And, in between the demography and Islam stuff, there's a whole section on cheese and liberty in America Alone, personally autographed copies of which are, etc, etc. Proceeds from both books go to prop up my end of the forthcoming Mann vs Steyn showdown, First Amendment rights being somewhat harder to claim in the District of Columbia than cupcake rights in Illinois.
~For the benefit of footie fans: Who do I like in the World Cup? Go, Cameroon, you Indomitable Lions.