The raw milk question is complicated - the law, which addresses imported cheeses aged for less than 60 days, has been around as long as I've been in the business - at least 25+ years. For many years, it was quietly ignored, and many cheeses were brought in under the radar. It is true that even a few years ago, places like Whole Foods were selling the true, AOC versions of chevres and soft-ripeneds. Even before 9/11, things were starting to get tightened up, but that led to big changes for importers. It's just not worth the risk for them anymore.
Let me expand on this point: The law, which is governed by the FDA, relates to *any* cheese (foreign or domestic) that is made with raw milk and aged less than 60 days. AOC Brie de Meaux, for example, is a raw milk cheese that is aged for 45 days. Most goat's milk cheese is aged a very short period of time, typically from as little as 7 days to 45 days.
Before 9/11, cheese came into the U.S. and customs either looked the other way, or they were told the cheese was made with pasteurized milk when it wasn't. After the Bioterrorism Act came into play, however, the process for bringing anything with organic material/contents into the U.S. changed. Now, you have to get pre-authorization from the FDA and U.S. Customs. In order to get this, you have to detail what your product is (in this case, cheese), where it came from, how it's made and where the ingredients came from. This process change is what effectively shut the door on the importation of most fresh raw-milk cheeses from France and everywhere else. The cheeses that are "close" to 60 days, like Brie, can be aged another 15 days and then sent over. So you can still get AOC Brie, if you look real hard. Other cheeses just don't have their special flair if they hold them over too long. Think of a banana that's overripe and you'll have a sense for what I mean.
I would understand our government's concern for our well-being if there was a world-wide problem of cheese-bourne illnesses. Have you heard of people falling dead all over France from eating raw milk cheeses? Gee, neither have I. I have nothing to base this on but conspiracy theory, but I think there must have been some lobbying from big business way back when that convinced legislators that these products were dangerous. They have been protecting our health, even when presented with facts to the contrary, ever since.
This is not a health issue, it is a money issue. The stated reason has been that there are food-borne illnesses associated with raw milk products, most notably, listeriosis. You can get listeriosis from a piece of cheese made with pasteurized milk, by the way. It just depends on when the infection/bacteria reached the cheese - pre-pasteurization or post. Europeans are not dropping dead from eating cheese. What makes me laugh even more is how pregnant women here avoid raw milk cheese like the plague because they think they (or their unborn baby) will drop dead from it. Meanwhile, you can go to a Bennigan's in Pittsburgh and get some scallions on your nachos that are infected with Hepatitis. The whole premise is laughable.
It is much more difficult and expensive to make cheese with raw milk. In France, you have to test every batch of milk for pathogens before it goes into production. That means you have to dump batches of milk if they don't pass. If you produce cheese using pasteurized milk, you can use 100% of what you take in. This also means you can take in a lower quality product - it all gets smoothed out in the end. Unfortunately, the flavor goes away as well. Try boiling a bottle of your favorite wine before you drink it. You'll see what I mean.
You can tell this is a soapbox issue for me...