There are multiple ways to describe, organize and classify cheese- including texture, milk type, and place of origin.
The definitions and glossaries below list useful terms for talking about and describing cheese.
3-A Sanitary Standards
A third-party verification inspection program which assures processors that equipment meets sanitary standards. The voluntary use of this symbol on dairy and food equipment also provides accepted criteria to equipment manufacturers for sanitary design, and establishes guidelines for uniform evaluation and compliance by sanitarians.
Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP)
ATP is the primary molecule for energy transfer in living cells. ATP is used in food safety to determine bacterial cleanliness by serving as an indicator of viable (living) cell numbers. It is a rapid testing method to verify equipment sanitation and several kits are commercially available.
Cheese that is produced primarily by hand, in small batches, with attention paid to the tradition of the cheesemaker’s art, and thus using as little mechanization as possible in the production of the cheese. Artisan, or artisanal, cheeses may be made from all types of milk and may include various flavorings.
Bill of Lading
A document that is as a receipt from a shipping company that indicates the number of packages, their weight, and the contract for transportation to a destination on the form.
Certificate of Analysis (COA)
A document issued by the supplier at the request of the receiving site (purchaser) which contains analytical test results for critical raw material/packaging material specification parameters.
The Codex Alimentarius “General Standard for Cheese (CODEX STAN 283-1978)” defines cheese as:
The ripened or unripened soft, semi-hard, hard, or extra-hard product, which may be coated, and in which the whey protein/casein ratio does not exceed that of milk, obtained by:
(a) coagulating wholly or partly the protein of milk, skimmed milk, partly skimmed milk, cream, whey cream or buttermilk, or any combination of these materials, through the action of rennet or other suitable coagulating agents, and by partially draining the whey resulting from the coagulation, while respecting the principle that cheese-making results in a concentration of milk protein (in particular, the casein portion), and that consequently, the protein content of the cheese will be distinctly higher than the protein level of the blend of the above milk materials from which the cheese was made; and/or
(b) processing techniques involving coagulation of the protein of milk and/or products obtained from milk which give an end-product with similar physical, chemical and organoleptic characteristics as the product defined under (a).
Clean in Place (CIP)
Used throughout the food industry for closed systems like storage tanks/silos and the flow line circuits that deliver and remove food products which cannot be removed for cleaning. The systems typically run a wash, rinse, and sanitation cycle to thoroughly clean and sanitize the product contact surfaces of the tanks and lines.
Clean Out of Place (COP)
A cleaning and sanitation operation using wash tanks and manual cleaning for systems that are not CIP.
Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.)
The codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States. The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) is divided into 50 titles representing broad areas subject to federal regulation. Each title is divided into chapters that are assigned to agencies issuing regulations pertaining to that broad subject area. Each chapter is divided into parts, and each part is then divided into sections -- the basic unit of the C.F.R.
The purpose of the C.F.R. is to present the official and complete text of agency regulations in one organized publication, and to provide a comprehensive and convenient reference for all those who may need to know the text of general and permanent federal regulations. Regulations established by the FDA are published in Title 21 of the C.F.R.
International food standards, guidelines, and codes of practice that contribute to the safety, quality, and fairness of the international food trade.
Compliance Policy Guide (CPG)
The Compliance Policy Guides together form a manual created by the FDA to provide a convenient and organized system for statements of FDA compliance policy, including those statements which contain regulatory action guidance information. The statements made in the CPG are not intended to create or confer any rights, privileges, or benefits on or for any private person, but are intended for internal guidance.
An action prescribed with a commitment to follow through in a defined time period to resolve an observed quality problem.
Critical Control Points (CCPs)
Steps at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
Steam that is used in food processing. This type of steam is required to meet 3-A Sanitary Standards. Culinary steam can, and often does, come into direct contact with the final product.
Also known as secondary cultures. Microorganisms added to milk to enhance flavor development, provide protection against pathogens or produce carbon dioxide for eye formation in cheese. See Cultures, Starter.
In cheesemaking, Starter cultures are used in cheesemaking to facilitate fermentation of lactose. Starters are comprised of lactic acid bacteria that rely on sugar fermentation for energy. Starter cultures will ferment lactose, which produces lactic acid and lowers the pH of milk. Starter cultures can be used as Primary Starters, or as adjunct cultures. The following terms are used to indicate the optimum temperature for these families of bacterial cultures:
Mesophilic Cultures can ferment lactose at temperatures as low as 50-113°F (10-45°C) with optimal growth between 86-103°F (30-40°C).
Thermophilic Cultures grow at temperatures in the range of 68-120°F (20-50°C) with optimal growth between 98-113°F (37 - 45°C) and can survive at temperatures up to 131°F (55°C).
The removal of an amine group from a molecule, resulting in the production of ammonia. This influences the ripening, and therefore texture and flavor development in bloomy rind, blue mold, and washed rind cheeses.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a responsibility to ensure that the environment and the health of the community are protected – both now and for future generations. The proper management of dairy wastes is essential to achieve that objective. As the dairy industry has become more environmentally aware and committed to producing good environmental outcomes, alternative mechanisms have been developed in line with the government's desire to promote Best Practices Environmental Management (BPEM). Environmentally-aware dairy companies seeking a better environment and competitive advantage should find merit in this approach. BPEM of dairy emissions will also achieve benefits for the community in terms of sustainable improvements in environment quality. The BPEM approach seeks to promote innovative uses of waste products by focusing on desired objectives and outcomes, rather than regulatory control. In this way, innovation is not stifled and flexibility is provided – but those seeking greater direction or certainty can simply apply the suggested measures. These guidelines will be reviewed regularly and updated as necessary, based on operating experience and the development of national standards. Users of the guidelines are encouraged to provide comments to EPA to assist this process.
Many of these regulations may be found in General Specifications for Dairy Plants Approved for USDA Inspection and Grading Service. Along with Federal guidelines, state and local authorities may impose additional regulations.
Facilities that process, store, or ship food for human or animal consumption are required to register with the FDA. This was first introduced as part of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act). This act directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as the food regulatory agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, to take additional steps to protect the public from a threatened or actual terrorist attack on the US food supply and other food-related emergencies. To carry out certain provisions of the Bioterrorism Act, FDA has established The Preventive Controls rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) applies to food processing facilities that are registered with the FDA.
Visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FoodFacilityRegistration/default.htm to create a free account. Once an account is established, one can register his/her farm or company, register on behalf of others, and edit the registration information.
Cheese must be made with milk from the farmer’s own herd, or flock, on the farm where the animals are raised. Milk used in the production of farmstead cheese may not be obtained from any outside source.
The Food Code establishes practical, science-based guidance for mitigating risk factors that are known to cause or contribute to food borne illness outbreaks associated with retail and foodservice establishments, and it is an important part of strengthening our nation's food protection system. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly designed and authored the 2013 Food Code. This is a model code and reference document for state, city, county, and tribal agencies that regulate operations such as restaurants, retail food stores, food vendors, and foodservice operations in institutions such as schools, hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes, and child care centers. Food safety practices at these facilities play a critical role in preventing food borne illness.
All conditions and measures necessary to ensure the safety and suitability of food at all stages of the product life cycle.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The federal agency that is responsible for overseeing most of the US food supply, a primary task of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
An act passed in 2011 which aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. FDA is responsible for its implementation and enforcement.
Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)
The public health agency in the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs)
Specific methods which, when applied to agriculture, create food for consumers or further processing that is safe and wholesome. While there are numerous competing definitions of what methods constitute good agricultural practices, there are several broadly accepted schemes to which producers can adhere.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) has two meanings when used in the context of a food processing facility. First, it refers to actual federal code sections that provide the regulation for both federal and state food processing regulations that serve as cover facility construction, equipment and utensil selection, sanitization, personnel hygiene, food handling, and production and processing controls.
The second definition refers to a set of operating procedures and practices that are required to confirm the guidelines recommended by agencies that control authorization and licensing for manufacture and sale of food, drug products, and active pharmaceutical products. These are the minimum requirements that a food product manufacturer must meet to assure that the products are of high quality and do not pose any risk to the consumer or public.
A biological, chemical, physical, or radiological agent in, or condition of, food with the potential to cause an adverse health effect.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)
A system which identifies, evaluates, and controls hazards which are significant for food safety. HACCP identifies Critical Control Points but doesn’t recognize Preventive Controls. HACCP is the internationally accepted, science-based system for ensuring food safety controls, harmonized with the current recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF).
Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC)
Requirements are similar to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements which identify hazards that might arise due to the specific foods or food ingredients in the food or due to the various processing, manufacturing, packing, and holding steps applied to the foods. HARPC doesn’t distinguish CCPs from other types of Preventive Controls.
Intentional Adulteration Rule
The intentional adulteration rule is aimed at preventing intentional adulteration from acts intended to cause wide-scale harm to public health, including acts of terrorism targeting the food supply. Such acts, while not likely to occur, could cause illness, death, economic disruption of the food supply absent mitigation strategies.
Rather than targeting specific foods or hazards, this rule requires mitigation (risk-reducing) strategies for processes in certain registered food facilities.
FDA’s publication, “A Food Labeling Guide,” has 94 pages that include information on basic food labeling as well as information on nutrition facts, trans fat, and allergen labeling. Labeling not only is a marketing tool, but it informs the consumer of what they are purchasing. Ingredients of the food, composition (including trans fats, caloric values and other nutritional information), allergens, panel requirements and placement, company information, and much more are addressed by the Code of Federal Regulations. The full labeling requirements may be found at
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Food Labeling: Designation of Ingredients, 21 Electronic Code of Federal Regulations § 101.4. Accessed February 2, 2017. http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=514fefb3cfa2fdcfccd9082bbe593d2f&mc=true&node=pt21.2.101&rgn=div5#se21.2.101_14.
Lipolysis is the biochemical pathway responsible for the catabolism of triacylglycerol, yielding glycerol and free fatty acids.
A firm’s removal or correction by its own volition of a distributed product that involves a minor infraction that would not warrant legal action by regulatory authorities, or involves no violation of the state or federal laws, or health hazard.
Terminology in regulations which provides the option for the action be done. As opposed to Shall, which mandates that the action be done.
Can ferment lactose at temperatures as low as 50-113°F (10-45°C) with optimal growth between 86-103°F (30-40°C). For more see Cultures, Starter.
The total number of bacteria and fungi in a given quantity of water or food.
The lacteal secretion, practically free of colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows, goats, sheep, water buffalo, and other hoofed mammals.
A hard deposit of milk residues that accumulates on imperfectly cleansed dairy utensils and serves as a substrate for bacteria and contributes off-flavors to milk.
Modified Atmosphere Packaging
This may be used to limit compression while providing an atmosphere containing reduced oxygen or anaerobic conditions. This process entails packaging the cheese under an inert gas, such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or varying combinations of the two. This creates an anaerobic condition for the cheese, but does not cause the cheese to become damaged in any way—such as crushed or smashed down. A common example of use would be the packaging of cheese shreds, cheese curds, or Swiss-style cheese with eyes.
National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) HACCP
The NCIMS is a non-profit organization made up of persons from various aspects of the dairy industry. The NCIMS HACCP is a voluntary Dairy HACCP program for dairy plants to test the concept that a HACCP program could function as an equal alternative to the numerical ratings that have been used for years to measure a plant’s compliance. The program utilizes current National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food (NACMCF) consistent with current FDA recommendations. For more information, see
A process named after French scientist Louis Pasteur that applies heat to destroy pathogens in foods. For the dairy industry, the terms "pasteurization," "pasteurized" and similar terms mean the process of heating every particle of milk or milk product, in properly designed and operated equipment, to one of the approved temperatures outlined in the Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) and held continuously at or above that temperature for at least the corresponding specified time.
Pasteurization, High Temperature Short Time (HTST) – a legal pasteurization step which ensures that milk has been heated to a minimum of 161°F (71.6°C) for at least 15 seconds also known as continuous flow pasteurization.
Pasteurization, Low Temperature Long Time (LTLT) – a legal pasteurization step which ensures milk has been heated to 145°F (62.7°C) for a minimum of 30 minutes. Also known as Vat Pasteurization.
Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), Grade A
A model milk regulation used by states to govern the processing, packaging, and sale of Grade "A" milk and milk products, including buttermilk and buttermilk products, whey and whey products, and condensed and dry milk. The PMO only covers Grade A fluid milk.
Pasteurized Milk, Grade B
Also known as manufacturing milk, it can only be used in the production of dairy products such as cheese, butter, and non-fat dry milk, and is not regulated by the PMO.
Pest Management Product
Any lure, bait, monitoring product, pesticide, or any other formulated material used to perform pest management activities.
A food manufacturing facility, including associated warehousing. Does not include restaurants or other food service facilities.
Water that is fit and safe to be consumed or used by humans with low risk of immediate or long term harm.
Pre-Requisite Programs (PRPs)
The World Health Organization defines pre-requisite programs as “practices and conditions needed prior to and during the implementation of HACCP and which are essential for food safety.” Pre-requisite programs provide a foundation for an effective HACCP system. They are often facility-wide programs rather than process or product specific, which reduce the likelihood of certain hazards.
Reasonable and appropriate procedures, practices, and processes that a person knowledgeable about the safety of food would employ to significantly minimize or prevent hazards.
Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule
The specific component of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that affects small food processors. The Rule was finalized in September 2015. The pertinent fact sheet can be accessed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21, Part 117 (21 CFR 117).
The breakdown of proteins into simpler compounds, such as peptides or amino acids.
Cold tolerant bacteria. These are not used as starters in cheesemaking. These bacteria are capable of growth at temperatures as low as 44.5°F (7°C), with an optimal range of 59-68F° (15-20°C). Pseudomonas is an example of a psychrophilic bacterium that is of concern to the dairy industry. Pseudomonas can form biofilms (difficult to remove bacterial growths) in dairy processing equipment. Pseudomonas can cause spoilage in milk even after pasteurization, and could indicate mastitis. Pseudomonas ssp florescens is especially problematic in cheesemaking due to the production of off flavors in cheese. Clostridia is another example of a psychrophile. Psychrophiles can be present in milk as post-pasteurization contaminants due to less than adequate sanitation practice. It is possible that milk residue may contain enough nutrients to sustain bacterial growth at ambient temperature. Most are killed by pasteurization; some are thermoduric and can survive pasteurization.
No food facility is exempt from the responsibility to produce safe food, but those that have both gross annual sales less than $500,000 annually and sell the majority of their food directly to consumers or to grocery stores, institutions, or restaurants in-state or within a 275-mile radius, may be deemed “qualified” for less-burdensome requirements. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provides guidelines for the definition in 21 CFR 117.
Along with federal regulations, the state, county, and city have the authority to add to requirements. Please check with your local governing body for local regulations. The following segments identify where pertinent regulations for the dairy industry may be found.
Research and Development (R&D)
The product development process responsible for the creation of new food products, processes, and packages, and for modifications to existing formulae, manufacturing processes, and packages.
Removal of distributed food products from commerce when there is reason to believe that such products are adulterated or misbranded under the provisions of applicable state and federal laws. “Recall” does not include a market withdrawal or a stock recovery. Recalls are almost always voluntary based on a company’s discovering a problem and recalling a product on its own, or, voluntarily recalling a product after FDA raises concerns. Only in rare cases will FDA request a recall.
A generic term used to reference enzymes (proteinases) capable of altering casein proteins in a specific way to initiate coagulation. Chymosin is the key enzyme found in animal rennet. Rennets can also be used to separate milk into solid curds used for cheesemaking and liquid whey. Calf rennet is the most widely used in animal rennet in cheesemaking. In addition to chymosin, animal rennet contains other important enzymes such as pepsin and lipase. Other types of rennets include microbial, recombinant, and vegetable rennets.
Rodent Bait Station
Any station used for placement of solid rodenticide bait.
Root Cause Analysis
Drill down capability for troubleshooting the source of a quality problem, with the intent of implementing a sustainable resolution.
Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs)
Written procedures that an establishment develops and implements to prevent direct contamination or adulteration of product.
Terminology in regulations which mandates the action be done. May gives the option of doing the action.
The majority of somatic cells are leukocytes (white blood cells), which become present in increasing numbers in milk usually as an immune response to a mastitis-causing pathogen. Epithelial cells, which are milk-producing cells shed from inside of the udder when an infection occurs, are also considered somatic cells. Somatic cell count is used as an indicator of infection status as well as milk quality.
Any criteria with which product, process, services, or other activity must conform.
A cheese of limited production made with particular attention paid to natural flavor and texture profiles.
A program used to approve material suppliers, and to assure their continuing ability to deliver products that meet company specifications.
Tuberculosis (TB) Accredited Herd
When herds have passed at least two consecutive annual tuberculin tests, have no other evidence of bovine TB, and meet the standards of the USDA Uniform Methods and Rules (UMR) for Bovine TB Eradication, they are eligible to be accredited bovine TB-free, by the USDA.
Mixing cold water with hot water to keep the water temperature fixed at a more moderate temperature.
Also known as Thermization or Subpasteurization. Involves heating milk to 140-150°F (60-65°C) for 15 to 30 seconds (or any other combination of time and temperature less than the legal pasteurization requirements), before the start of cheesemaking. This process reduces the number of micro-organisms in the milk. The US FDA considers this still to be raw milk cheese production.
Grow at temperatures in the range of 68-120°F (20-50°C) with optimal growth between 98-113°F (37 - 45°C) and can survive at temperatures up to 131°F (55°C). For more see Cultures, Starter.
Bacteria that can survive the pasteurization process to varying extents.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The USDA ensures the safety of meat, poultry, and processed egg products both domestically and from countries approved to export product to the United States.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
The Agricultural Marketing Act (AMA) of 1946 (7 U.S.C. 1621 et seq.) directs USDA to develop programs which will provide for and facilitate the marketing of agricultural products. One part of the USDA’s AMS is known as Dairy Programs. The mission of AMS Dairy Programs is to facilitate the efficient marketing of milk and dairy products, and it is intended to helps the US dairy industry efficiently market high-quality milk and dairy products.
Any infectious disease that can be transmitted from non-human animals, both wild and domestic, to humans, or from humans to non-human animals. The latter is sometimes called reverse zoonosis.