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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 738

Senator LITTLE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:

(1)   Was a cheese factory in New South Wales prevented by the State Department of Health from manufacturing parmesan fancy cheese from unpasteurised milk.

(2)   Is it a fact that pasteurisation kills bacteria necessary to curd parmesan cheese and that imports of this cheese made from unpasteurised milk could be dangerous to human health.

(3)   Is parmesan cheese, imported into Australia, made from unpasteurised milk; if so, do the countries of origin have any incidence of foot and mouth disease.

(4)   If the answer to (3) is in the affirmative, will the Commonwealth ban such imports so as to protect the health of people, and the future of the dairying industry in Australia.


Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   This is a matter for the State authorities and my Department has no information on any such prohibition. The Department understands that the New South Wales authorities have adopted a recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council which permits cheeses to be held for a period of 90 days in storage at a specified temperature as an alternative to the pasturisation of the milk used for their manufacture.

(2)   The production of curd is achieved by the addition of coagulating agents and is therefore, unaffected by pasteurisation. Some lipase producing bacteria may be destroyed in the milk by pasteurisation and to assist in flavour development lipase enzyme may need to be added Parmesan cheese is matured for a period of at last 12 months and most imported parmesan cheese is about 2 years old. The high acidity, low moisture content and high salt concentration in matured parmesan cheese act as safeguard7s against the survival and growth of bacteria. There is no evidence that parmesan cheese made from unpasteurised milk is dangerous to human health.

(3)   Parmesan cheese is imported into Australia and some of it could be made from unpasteurised milk Foot and mouth disease exists in the principal country of origin.

(4)   Existing quarantine restrictions prohibit the importation of cheese only if it contains meat or is packed in animal tissue. It is not considered that manufactured cheeses present any risk of transmitting foot and mouth disease because the chemical changes associated with processing and maturation could be expected to destroy any virus that might be present in the original milk.

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