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Cheesy Changes: American Cheese Relabeled

Stop & Shop Cheese Singles SCan you spot the difference between these two packages of cheese slices?

They have the same UPC code, the same look, and probably the same taste faintly reminiscent of a product once called american cheese.

The one on the right is called “Pasteurized Process Cheese Food” and is currently being phased out in favor of the item on the left called “American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.” So, big deal, they changed the name, you say. The name change had to be made because the ingredients no longer met the federal definition (the standard of identity) for “pasteurized process cheese food.”

*MOUSE PRINT:

ss cheese ingredients

Uncle Sam has a very specific recipe for mandatory and optional ingredients in “pasteurized process cheese food.”   In particular, this product must be a minimum of 51% cheese (isn’t that reassuring), and no more than 44% moisture.

In the early 2000s, Kraft Singles starting using “milk protein concentrate” in its products and that was not allowed by the federal recipe. Rather than change their recipe, Kraft renamed it to “american pasteurized prepared cheese product.” [See second story here.] There is no federal standard of identity for such a product.

Other brands, including store brands, have been slow to change, but most have now eliminated “cheese food” from their labels.

So what do you get in the new products? From the labels, it is not even clear if it contains american cheese anymore, or whether it is at least 51% cheese. What it does have is 50% more cholesterol than before, and almost 40% more salt.

And, to add insult to injury, the new Stop & Shop product, while still a pound, only weighs 453 grams instead of the old 454. How cheesy can you get?

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19 thoughts on “Cheesy Changes: American Cheese Relabeled”

  1. “Cheese Product”? Oh, man, that sounds tasty. NOT!!!!!! Now I remember why I switched from American slices to real provolone and swiss. YECCCH!

  2. Just by cheese folks. That’s the real stuff. Nobody would buy an alcoholic wheat product instead of beer either.

    BTW: neither in firefox, nor in IE, I get the images you seems to put on your website.

    BTWII: Tip, try and look at the iPod smaal print on how Apple defines GB. They equate 1 GB to 1000 MB, which jips customers by 2,4% (aa real Gig is 1024 MB)… It made me think of your oddly defined New Yorkian square feet.

  3. It is really getting dangerous to eat anything nowadays. Deleting
    good ingredients; adding fake ingredients; cutting down the size of a
    product; raising price and cutting down size. Where is this going?

  4. Jasper,

    All hard drive manufacturers have used 1000 multipliers instead of 1024 for years – at least since some of the first GB hard drives were available. Apple is following accepted industry standards in their labeling.

    In reality, the mega- and giga- prefixes are part of the metric system and by definition identify base-10 multiples – not the near-equivalent 1024 that fits base-2. There is no logical reason why we should redefine the metric system to make a computer’s job of counting easier.

  5. I was just looking at some sort of cheese product yesterday…looked at the ingredients and didn’t see anything “cheese” related in the first five ingredients.

    Apparently the definition of cheese is very loosely defined. As best as I can tell, this product I saw (which is the el-cheapo sandwich cheese-type product) is really just coagulated oil assembled to look like a cheese slice.

    As for this “American Cheese” shift, I wonder how long before the blocks of cheese start saying the same thing and the low-end ones have to put a disclaimer: “contains no milk products.”

    On a similar vein, the shredded “cheese” I’ve seen sold in stores is also apparently mainly an oil-based product rather than milk-based. Reminds me of the whole shift from butter to margarine: shift from milk products to oil products. They taste different, melt differently, and have different health benefits. Its seems that these new artificial cheeses lack the benefits.

  6. @ Jeremy: It’s still weird that I’ve bought a 40 GB product that when I connect to iTunes suddenly only contains 36GB. If all HD manufacturers do it, they all need to be exposed. Bytes go, as unfortunate as it is for us metric lovers, by the power of 2. It’s hypocrite they kept the binary counting going until they reached MBs and then dropped it ‘for convenience’. This is exactly what this site is about.

  7. How about all the thousands of food products made with “White Meat Chicken?” Have you ever looked at the ingredients on those packages? I’ve never understood why anyone would make you eat chicken meat powder (or worse, rib meat powder) with other additives molded into the shape of a piece of chicken, even with fake grill marks on them, and expect you to eat it!!! It’s disgusting. Since I’ve been checking labels on products with chicken in them a few months ago, I have maybe found 1 or 2 that actually have real, 100% chicken in them.

  8. Edgar replies: Folks, please don’t switch topics or products when posting comments. Stick to cheese for now. If you want to suggest other products that Mouse Print* should look at, click the submissions link on the left. Thanks.

  9. I’ve known about the difference in cheese for a long time. I only buy American Cheese that says pasteurized process – no cheese food. It’s a better product and better nutritionally.

  10. We have not purchased any cheese FOOD, nor cheese SPREAD, nor cheese PRODUCT in ages.

    We only get real CHEESE, and usually buy it in 5 pound blocks at Sam’s.

  11. Thanks for publishing this. I run a deli and have only bought fresh sliced deli cheese for years. The quality and taste outweighs the little bit of additional cost.

  12. Jasper:

    neither in firefox, nor in IE, I get the images you seems to put on your website.

    Do you have an adblocker in place? If so, you may need to turn off the rule that blocks images of the form http://*/ads/

  13. @ Arensb: Hey, that helps! Odd. I use AdsubstractPRO, and it hardly ever blocks stuff that’s legitimate….

  14. The government has a site that defines the various types of cheeses:

    http://www.ams.usda.gov/howtobuy/cheese.htm

    Nothing there about “Prepared Cheese Product” or anything like that. I wonder if it’s even legal to call it cheese if it doesn’t meet government standards?

    BTY, I bought some Kraft cheese lately … it looked and tasted fine, but when I put it on a hamburger on the grill, it barely melted. I thought that was strange, and now I am kicking myself for not saving the label. I’m betting it was some kind of “cheese product”

  15. I have found that most if not all of the individually wrapped products are the cheese-type food products.

    The Kraft and store brands of cheese that are not individually wrapped seem to be ‘cheese’, not some sort of cheese food or product. I live in California…this might be a state requirement.

  16. I usually call that junk “imitation pasteurized processed cheese food product substitute”. I can’t stand it.

    I eat real cheese; Cheddar, or Mozarella, or Provolone, or Muenster, or Swiss, bought at the deli in the grocery store. The individually wrapped stuff is horrible. Even real “American cheese” is pretty tasteless.

  17. “Cheese food product” is made with mostly vegetable oil and the above mentioned “milk protein.” At least, while barely qualifying as cheese, regular american cheese is still made from mostly milk.

  18. Food is food. If you like it and it ain’t unhealthy eat it. Don’t let the legalities of labeling change your opinion. When you cook you mix all kinds of stuff together to create a new dish. I mean macaroni and chesse is neither macaroni nor is it cheese. It is a totally new “animal”.

    Eat and enjoy!

  19. That is why I buy only real cheese. Block or sliced. But you have look carefully! I have noticed that real cheese does not come in the plastic wrappers though….

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