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Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Genuine Imitation Pasteurized Process Cheese Food Product Substitute"

Ah, Cheese. I love good cheese: give me some aged extra sharp cheddar, the kind that bites back when bite into it. Steven Urkel ain't got nothing on me! The USDA says that a serving of cheese is roughly equal to the size of 2 dice. I agree - the size of 2 "fuzzy dice" that hang from a rear view mirror.

(This could explain my high triglyceride levels)

But I digress. What I really want to piss and moan about here is the desecration of cheese. Specifically, American Process Cheese; but also cheese in general.
 Cheese is a simple and natural product, containing milk, enzymes, salt, and various flavorings. There are many kinds of cheese, the most popular being cheddar and American cheese. What I want to talk about is American cheese, it's the cheese most Americans grew up with. It is a processed cheese, meaning that water has been added to the basic colby / cheddar blend in order to make manufacturing and packaging easier. It is defined as:
Under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (Food and Drugs), Article 133, Section 169 (Pasteurized process cheese), the allowed usage of the term "American Cheese" for certain types of "Pasteurized process cheese" is detailed. Specifically, in paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of section 133.169, it states In case it is made of cheddar cheese, washed curd cheese, colby cheese, or granular cheese or any mixture of two or more of these, it may be designated "Pasteurized process American cheese"; or when cheddar cheese, washed curd cheese, colby cheese, granular cheese, or any mixture of two or more of these is combined with other varieties of cheese in the cheese ingredient, any of such cheeses or such mixture may be designated as "American cheese." U.S. Food and Drug Administration (April 1, 1999). "Title 21, Article 133". U.S. Government Printing Office. http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_99/21cfr133_99.html.
All good and well. We understand the need to add a little water to process our food. And really, when melting cheese on a burger or grilled cheese, process cheese is the ONLY cheese you should use. But somewhere in the last 50 years, manufacturers have gone astray. To quote from Wikipedia, the definitions of "Process Cheese" include:
  • Pasteurized process cheese, which is made from one or more cheeses (excluding certain cheeses such as cream cheese and cottage cheese but including American cheese), and which may contain one or more specified "optional ingredients" (includes both dairy and nondairy items). Moisture and fat content percentage requirements vary according to standards for constituent cheeses, but in most cases fat content must be >47%.
  • Pasteurized process cheese food, which is made from not less than 51% by final weight of one or more "optional cheese ingredients" (similar to the cheeses available for Pasteurized process cheese) mixed with one or more "optional dairy ingredients" (milk, whey, etc.), and which may contain one or more specified "optional ingredients" (nondairy). Moisture must be <44%, and fat content >23%.
  • Pasteurized process cheese spread, which is made similarly to Pasteurized process cheese food but must be spreadable at 70° F. Moisture must be between 44% and 60%, and fat content >20%.
The US Food & Drug Administration does not maintain a standard of identity for "Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product", a designation which particularly appears on many popular Kraft products (as well as some others). Neither does the FDA maintain a standard of identity for "Pasteurized Process Cheese Product" (emphasis on the trailing "Product"), a designation which appears particularly on many American store- and generic-branded singles. Products labeled as such may therefore use milk protein concentrate (MPC) in the formulation, an ingredient which does not appear in the above FDA definitions. The desire to use inexpensive imported milk protein concentrate is noted as motivation for the introduction of these and similar terms, and for the relabeling of some products.[5][6] After an FDA Warning Letter protesting Kraft's use of MPC in late 2002,[7] some varieties of Kraft Singles formerly labeled "Pasteurized Process Cheese Food" became "Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product", Velveeta went from "Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread" to "Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product", and Easy Cheese went from "Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread" to "Pasteurized Cheese Snack".
 Did you catch that last paragraph? MOST of what you think of as "Cheese" is NOT cheese. And the worst offender? Kraft. Yes, the company that puts "Real Kraft Cheese" on its products! Whatinthehell does "Real Kraft Cheese" mean? Not a damn thing. I means it may contain cheese-like substances, or cheese-like particles, but CHEESE DOES NOT NEED TO BE AN INGREDIENT! Don't believe it? Read the ingredients on a box of "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese":
whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, contains less than 2% of citric acid, sodium phosphate, lactic acid, milk, calcium phosphate, yellow 5, yellow 6, cheese culture, enzymes. 
In fact, in Canada and Europe, it can't be legally sold as "Macaroni and Cheese", it's called "Kraft Dinner".

According to Kraft:
  ...any product with the "Real Kraft Cheese" tag contains "a cheese ingredient that meets the high standards for taste, quality and performance consumers expect when buying a Kraft-branded cheese product."
So, I guess since it contains "cheese culture" it's cheese according to Kraft. Way to dance around the issue, Kraft!

To recap:
  • First, there was "Cheese". Cheese is good. Yea, it's going to make your cholesterol levels go through the roof if you eat a lot of it, but it is good, and it's cheese.
  • Then, there was "Pasteurized process cheese". Process cheese is also good, because it's still mostly cheese.
  • Then came "Pasteurized processed cheese food". Not so good, you can spot this as not really quite real cheese by the need to have the slices separated by a sheet of plastic. But still, it is at least "Food"
  • Then, what we have now, "Pasteurized processed cheese PRODUCT". It's even hard to find "cheese FOOD" anymore - its gotten so bad, they can't legally call it "FOOD"
  • What now? "Imitation Pasteurized Process Cheese  Product Substitute" The logical next step in the de-evolution of cheese - the complete removal of any cheese-like substances from cheese. It doesn't even melt!
So, what can you do about the de-cheesing of cheese?
  1.  Don't but any sliced "cheese" that's individually wrapped - this indicates that it's not mostly cheese; it's cheese food at best..
  2. For packaged sliced cheese, buy the "Deluxe" variety. It will cost more, but it's (processed) cheese.
  3. Buy cheese from the Deli. It's usually real processed cheese.
  4. Find a local cheese producer: they tend to sell "real" cheese.
  5. Expanding on #4, Find a local cheese producer with an factory outlet store.
  6. Watch out for imitation Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese, too: in packages and on frozen pizzas
  7. Store Brands: Surprise! The store-brand of Mac-n-Cheese dinner I have here lists "Cheddar Cheese" as the third ingredient in its cheese sauce packet. Read the labels!
As I researched this article, I did buy and try several sliced "products" that I made grilled cheese with. When I tried to make a grilled cheese with the "Genuine Imitation Pasteurized Process Cheese Food Product Substitute", I had a real problem. No matter how long or hot I cooked it, it simply would not melt! I looked at the ingredients:
Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Modified Potato Starch, Casein, Natural Flavor, Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Sorbic Acid (A Preservative), Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Artificial Color.
Mmmm, Casein and  Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: basically, it's flavored glue and Crisco.
I'm all about saving a buck, but there are lines even I won't cross.

I unwrapped a slice, and looked at it: it's just like the plastic it was wrapped in, only yellow. I looked at the "imitation cheese"- then the plastic wrapper. Then at the "imitation cheese"- and back at the plastic wrapper. I grabbed the plastic wrapper, slapped it on 2 slices of buttered bread, and grilled it.
Yum.

References:
What is 'Real Kraft Cheese'?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Processed_cheese
 Related:


WHAT'S THAT STUFF?


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