Friday, January 21, 2011

Real vs Fake - Part 1

In this first post talking about real food versus fake food, I'd like to discuss one of my biggest pet peeves: cheese. So much fake cheese is manufactured these days, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference - but because of labeling requirements in the US and elsewhere, you can tell the difference if you look for certain key words.

Real or Fake?

Yep - fake food. See the words "cheese product" at the bottom of the page? Any time the product says "cheese product" or "cheese food", you know it is not real cheese. The USDA requires fake cheese to be identified this way.
Cheese product has had modification of the water and butterfat levels, a lot of substances may be added to pasteurized process cheese food, such as dry milk, whey solids,  and anhydrous milk fat. The list is longer for pasteurized process cheese spread, which can contain sweeteners and stabilizers (substances that prevent separation), such as xanthan gum or carrageenan. In a former life, it was cheese - but it has been too "messed around with" to be labeled cheese - by anyone.

Some definitions:

 Pasteurized process cheese food is a variation of process cheese that may have dry milk, whey solids, or anhydrous milkfat added, which reduces the amount of cheese in the finished product. It must contain at least 51% of the cheese ingredient by weight, have a moisture content less than 44%, and have at least 23% milkfat.
 Pasteurized process cheese spread is a variation on cheese food that may contain a sweetener and a stabilizing agent, such as the polysaccharide xanthan gum or the Irish moss colloid carrageenan, to prevent separation of the ingredients. The cheese must be spreadable at 70 F, contain 44 to 60% moisture, and have at least 20% milkfat.
 Pasteurized process cheese product is process cheese that doesn't meet the moisture and/or milkfat standards.
 Imitation cheese is made from vegetable oil; it is less expensive, but also has less flavor and doesn't melt well.

For the record, Velveeta is pasteurized process cheese spread and Velveeta Light is pasteurized process cheese product. Cheez Whiz is labeled as pasteurized process cheese sauce

 Real or Fake?

Yes, fake again. Here, they don't even call it cheese. It is just "Parmesan style topping" - ewww. You are much better off buying a small wedge of real Parmesan and grating it yourself. This is a shaker can full of powdered chemicals and cheese leftovers.

If cheese is part of your clean eating nutritional choices, take steps to ensure what you are eating IS cheese. Read the labels, question the ingredient list, and, for the most part, opt for the more expensive cheeses. Those are typically the real thing.