If headlines over the past 48 hours have been any indication, the world of artisanal cheesemaking has narrowly dodged a huge setback for the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden shelves — at least for now. “Cheese World Fears Crackdown on Wood Boards,” stated one headline, while another asked, “Is the FDA Waging a War on Artisanal Cheese?” Another simply declared, “FDA Bans Wood Aging Boards for Cheese.” The truth, as it was fleshed out by Wednesday, is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) apparently has no plans to crack down on wooden shelves used for cheese aging, as cheesemongers had feared. The cause of the uproar dates back to 2012, when FDA shut down Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Co., an artisan cheesemaker in upstate New York, after inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes in the wooden shelves on which cheese wheels aged. Investigators apparently found Listeria on the boards once again in September 2013 and asked Finger Lakes to halt sales until they developed a plan to mitigate the risk of Listeria contamination. When the owner called FDA for more clarification, she said one of the recommendations she was given was to replace her wooden shelves. The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets soon got involved, seeking clarification from FDA about whether or not wooden shelves were OK to use. In January 2014, FDA Egg and Dairy Branch Chief Monica Metz wrote the state department to say that wooden shelves did not conform to standards because they could not be adequately cleaned and properly maintained. The porous nature of wood allows for bacteria to colonize the inner layers, she added. In fact, in the email Metz referred to the stance as “our policy on aging cheese on wooden shelves,” and mentioned that the stance had “just been cleared.” The regulations on the books simply require that the surface on which cheese ages be easy to clean and properly maintained, and they don’t explicitly prohibit wood. But to New York cheesemakers, it was starting to sound like FDA didn’t like the wooden shelving often considered integral to the cheesemaking process, thanks to its control of moisture and its ability to foster bacteria that add flavor. According to The New York Times, a cheesemaker and extension specialist in the food sciences department of Cornell University on Thursday sent out a wide-reaching email raising concern that FDA did not consider wood an adequate surface for cheese aging. Cheesemakers began talking more openly about the issue, and by Monday the story was making headlines. On Wednesday the FDA issued a “clarification” statement saying that it was not actually planning to take any regulatory action against the use of wood shelving for aging cheese. “The communication [from Metz] was not intended as an official policy statement, but was provided as background information on the use of wooden shelving for aging cheeses and as an analysis of related scientific publications,” FDA said in a statement released Wednesday. Furthermore, the agency said, it has never taken an enforcement action against a cheesemaker based solely on the use of wooden shelving. FDA added that it would continue investigating the safety of aging cheeses on wooden surfaces.