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Disqualified Vegan Cheese Entry Stirs Controversy at Good Food Awards

In a move reminiscent of the great 1976 Paris wine debacle, the artisanal cheese world has been rocked by controversy at the US Good Food Awards.

Good Food Awards Logo

Among the contenders was a "remarkable" plant-based blue cheese from Climax Foods, ready to give traditional dairy products a run for their money with its innovative blend of pumpkin seeds, lima beans, hemp seeds, coconut fat, and cocoa butter.

Served at prestigious venues such as Eleven Madison Park, Climax Blue had not only captivated judges but also sparked controversy.

Initially, the California-based Good Foods Foundation, which oversees the awards, had positioned Climax Blue vegan cheese as a strong contender, praising its quality alongside traditional dairy cheeses. However, controversy erupted when Climax Foods was suddenly removed from the finalist list, sparking accusations and revealing a behind-the-scenes struggle involving the traditional dairy industry.

Climax Cheese - The controversial plant-based blue cheese

Source: Climax Foods - The controversial plant-based blue cheese so good it was withdrawn by organisers

According to Oliver Zahn, CEO of Climax Foods, their entry was set to win, only to be disqualified in a move he attributes to pressure from dairy cheesemakers. The foundation, while maintaining plant-based entries are permissible, cited undisclosed concerns brought to their attention about the Climax entry.

Allegations have surfaced suggesting that the disqualification related to the use of kokum butter, a non-GRAS certified ingredient, although Zahn contends it was replaced with cocoa butter in the final submission.

The Good Foods Foundation introduced GRAS certification requirements after the finalists were announced, a move Zahn criticised as a post-hoc attempt to exclude his product. The foundation insists the changes were a clarification of existing standards. Meanwhile, Sarah Weiner, the foundation's executive director, is sorry the situation arose but emphasised the importance of food safety and integrity in the awards.

The incident has not only highlighted the competitive tensions between traditional and plant-based cheese makers but also highlights the broader debate over the definition and future of "cheese." Traditionalists, like raw milk cheese pproducer, Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm, argues vegan products, reliant on technological processes, should not be categorised alongside those made from animal milk due to their lack of connection to historical cheese making practices.

Climax Blue Cheese - So good it is served at top end US eateries

Source: Climax Foods - So good it is served at top end US eateries

The controversy at the Good Food Awards thus serves as both a setback and a catalyst for ongoing discussions about innovation, tradition, and the evolution of food industries.

Subsequently the story made headlines granting Climax Foods unprecedented publicity money couldn't buy...check this out from Stephen Colbert from The Late Show in the US.

Source: Colbert The Late Show.

As plant-based Earth friendly alternatives gain ground, the debate over labeling and industry standards is likely to continue, shaping the future of what consumers recognise as cheese. If however plant-based cheeses continue to disrupt the legacy animal cheese industry with this sort of publicity then all bodes well for the future.

For more info on where to acquire the Climax Blue Cheese CLICK HERE



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