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Holy cow: French monks with too much cheese seek salvation online

A French monastery in the heart of Burgundy launched an emergency online sale Friday to get rid of thousands of its prized artisanal cheeses, which are languishing in its cellars as Covid-19 keeps buyers away.

Holy cow: French monks with too much cheese seek salvation online
The monks teamed up with start-up Divine Box, which sells products made by abbeys in France and elsewhere, with a goal of selling at least a tonne of cheese by Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The Citeaux abbey just south of Dijon, birthplace of the Cistercian Catholic order, usually sells its raw-milk, semi-soft discs only to restaurants or visitors who make the trek to its on-site shop.

But a drop in demand since the coronavirus crisis erupted last year has left the abbey’s 19 Trappist monks with 4,000 cheeses too many — the equivalent of 2.8 tonnes.

“We tried explaining to our 75 cows that they needed to produce less milk but they don’t seem to have understood,” brother Jean-Claude, in charge of marketing at the monastery founded in 1098, told AFP.

“Our sales are down nearly 50 percent,” he said, with French restaurants still closed since October 30 as authorities try to curb a third wave of cases. “We need to clear out our stock.”

It’s a sin for fans of a cheese made by the monks since 1925, which won the silver medal at last year’s international food and drink competition in Lyon, a bastion of France’s culinary heritage.

READ ALSO: French eat record amounts of cheese to help them through pandemic

The monks teamed with the internet start-up Divine Box, which sells products made by abbeys in France and elsewhere, with a goal of selling at least a tonne of cheese by Tuesday.

The minimum order is two wheels at €23 each, plus shipping.

“We’re going to make it,” Jean-Claude said, with more than 700 kilogrammes already ordered according to the site.

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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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