Cheese traditionalists taste victory in Camembert war

The Camembert civil war is over. For once, the small battalions have defeated the big cheeses.

The five remaining traditional makers of the celebrated Norman cheese have succeeded in their battle to ensure true Camembert should always be made with raw, unpasteurised milk.

Two large dairy manufacturers, who owned five other "traditional" Camembert factories, attempted last summer to change the rules and claim the right to an "appellation côntrolée" label for cheese made from heat-treated or micro-filtered milk.

A committee set up by the government to regulate the traditional sector of the Camembert industry has now decided that the age-old methods for the making of the famous round cheese must be maintained.

The decision is a landmark victory for the whole of the unpasteurised milk cheese industry in France. The authentic tradition of French cheese-making – based on the use of untreated milk – has been under threat from the large companies which dominate the French dairy industry. Raw-milk cheeses now represent only five per cent of the market in France, although their sales are slowly increasing.

The vast bulk of the Camembert sold in the world is pasteurised. There are only 10 sites in Normandy which make Camembert from raw milk according to the traditional recipe.

The large dairy manufacturers had said heating the milk removed allegedly dangerous microbes. The traditionalists said Camembert made with raw milk was perfectly safe and tasted infinitely better.

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