Many of you may have noticed—particularly if you’re fans of bloomy rind soft-ripened cheeses—some changes going on in our cheese departments. We have been asked by public health officials to set all soft, fresh cheeses—as well as all soft-ripened cheeses that we cut and wrap or process here in our stores—at a seven-day sell-by date. The reason behind this regulation is primarily prophylactic. Under certain conditions, fresher cheeses, because of their relatively higher moisture content, salinity level, and pH profile may become more vulnerable to undesirable bacterial growth, in particular Listeria monocytogenes. The health department wants to eliminate a greater part of this risk by limiting the shelf life on these cheeses.
This has created some challenges for us in order to continue selling these types of cheeses. This rule applies to only cheeses that we cut, process, and wrap here at the store. If the cheeses come to us in a prepackaged form from our distributors, they can be sold with a longer shelf-life. This is why we now carry the BelGioioso fresh mozzarellas in convenient prepackaged containers, and we can continue to sell the Cesar’s fresh mozzarella with a longer shelf-life because he vacuum seals his product at his factory before it comes to us. Fetas, because of the salinity of our brining, can also have a longer shelf-life. Dreamfarm and Montchevre Chevres, Hidden Springs Driftless, BelGioioso Mascarpone, and all the other fresh cheese that we receive prepackaged can continue to have longer sell-by dates as well. That left us with the cream cheese, neufchatel, Le Roule, and all of the bloomy rind soft-ripened cheeses. Le Roule simply did not sell well enough at present to run the risk of the waste it might produce; so unfortunately, we will not be selling it for the time being. We are currently searching for similar products that might be excellent replacements for this cheese. The Swiss Valley cream cheese and neufchatel that we sell moves off the shelf fast enough that we’ve only had to limit the quantities we cut and wrap each day. But the bloomy rind soft-ripened cheeses, which includes all Bries, Camemberts, and their family, we now must cut and wrap once a week, and whatever does not sell we must take as a loss. We have had to make some hard decisions about which of these cheeses to keep and which to let go; but we will continue to look for the best available substitutes for a favorite you may no longer see in our cases. It is also possible, if you give us a week’s notice on Monday, for us to special order a full wheel of any of the bloomy rind soft-ripened cheeses we have routinely carried before this—depending upon availability from our distributors.
We have sold all of these cheeses for years at a longer shelf-life without any undue customer complaint or dissatisfaction, and they are exactly the same cheeses you have been enjoying all along; but we wish to comply and cooperate with the health department to the greatest degree possible.
We hope you recognize that these are mandated sell-by dates, and much like dairy product dating, the quality of the cheese has not deteriorated. Use your best judgment, and always keep any cheese products in a clean, dry compartment of your refrigerator at a temperature below 40ºF before you intend to use them.