the response of a dear friend made me do exacting research on the subject. no, not on the cheese lady. research on woman tends to be futile, regardless. herding cats would be a cinch, as they say, by comparison.
first off, raw milk is stuff which has not been pasteurized. pasteurizing means that the milk in question is heated to 63 C or 145 F for 30 minutes. or to 100 C or 212 F for o.1 seconds. the process is said to kill certain pathogens, e-coli and salmonella amongst them.
cheese made with raw milk is illegal to import, or to sell, unless it has aged some 60 days at a temperature at or above 2 C or 35 F.
so, when i mentioned that unpasteurized cheese can’t lawfully be brought to the US, or for that matter be sold, i talked pretty much about ‘soft’ cheeses, like camembert and brie or some goaty concoctions. taleggio, parmigiano, gruyere and such are matured longer than 60 days and are happily imported even though the best are made entirely from raw milk. the difference lies in the fact that as cheese ages it has an increasing acidity level thought high enough to kill food borne pathogens. this of course is not foolproof, but merely a suggestion. so, if you are sick already, or pregnant or overly concerned, i recommend you eat the pasteurized stuff. ultimately the whole thing and debate over raw versus pasteurized is simply overblown. alas, i have brought back ‘brie de meaux’ and there is a distinct difference from the import now known as ‘fromage’ de meaux. though traditional cheese might taste a wee stronger, even in france you’ll be hard up finding young cheeses made entirely from raw milk. in another aside, there have been reports that even cheese made from pasteurized milk has been recalled for listeria. and often pasteurization in itself creates a more dangerous situation. it tends to knock out competitive flora. the good guys, keeping the bad guys in check, are destroyed by pasteurization. it’s a rope tow, a toss-up. a whole lot depends on your personal immune system as well. further more, getting sick eating cheese made from raw milk more likely is less efficient than eating hot dogs at coney or baloney from the meat counter.
my research centered on google, of course. but i also took notes from a fabulous cheese book: gordon edgar’s ‘life on the wedge’, aka ‘cheesemonger’. anyone in any way liking cheese, ought to look into it. he writes a little cheesily at times, he is after all a punk rocker first and accountably has attitude. he is however also one of those guys you get to trust when he suggest one cheese over another. no cheeselady he.