A Normandy factory which is the main exporter in France of Mimolette cheese has hit out at authorities in the United States who have finally declared it is not fit to eat because of the way its crust is created.
Mimolette vieille is an aged version of the popular orange cheese that has been produced for hundreds of years without ill effects. Microscopic mites are used to create the grey coloured rind.
Three months ago one and a half tonnes of the aged version of the cheese was seized by US officials at warehouses throughout the country amid claims that it crust was unsafe for human consumption.
Now the Food and Drug Administration has declared that the cheese is a health hazard because there are too many microscopic mites per square inch on the rind and the cheese being held in warehouses will now be destroyed.
â€˜The article appears to consist in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food,â€™ the FDA said in a statement with a â€˜filthyâ€™ violation code attached.
American lovers of the cheese are furious and there have been protests on the streets of New York. A save the mimolette Facebook page has been set up and the respected Washington Times newspaper has described the FDA officials as â€˜food nanniesâ€™.
The US regulator is insisting that any future imports of mimolette must have no more than six mites per square inch in the crust, a demand that the Isigny-Sainte-MÃ¨re factory says is impossible to meet.
The factory in Normandy exports 60 tonnes of aged mimolette to the US every year and the loss will be a financial blow in the current economic times. However it has just announced a new contract worth â‚¬20 million to export powdered baby milk to China which will double its production.
Some â‚¬50 million will be invested over the next 10 years to build a new production plant near its current site with 60% being provided by the cooperative and 20% by the Chinese firm Biostime which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
The factoryâ€™s director general said that it should help to secure the future for the co-operatives 683 members. He pointed out that China is fast becoming the leading world market for milk products. There is a high demand for good quality baby milk powder from abroad following the scandal in 2008 when six babies died and 300,000 were affected by home produced powder that was contaminated.