We all know those individually wrapped slices of yellowy-orange product that Kraft sells—what we usually call “American cheese.”
Did you know Kraft can’t actually legally call those slices “cheese”? Funnily enough, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a rule that in order to be labeled as cheese (or even “pasteurized process cheese”), a product has to contain 100% cheese. If you want to call something “pasteurized process cheese food,” it has to be at least 51% cheese. Otherwise, if it’s less than 51% cheese, it has to be called “pasteurized process cheese product.”
If you read the Federal Rule (CFR 21 § 133.169) on this subject, it actually almost reads like a joke:
“A pasteurized process cheese food is the food prepared by comminuting and mixing… the cheese ingredients in paragraph (c)…with the dairy ingredients in paragraph (d), into a homogeneous plastic mass.”
I went ahead and added the italics on that last sentence just to make sure we all had the emphasis in the right place. Yes, the words “homogeneous plastic mass” actually occur in the legal definition of a substance marketed as food. Imagine how the homogeneous plastic mass must look for a pasteurized process cheese product…
These revelations are disturbing enough that I could end this post right here, but hang on to your seats, because it gets even better.
Guess which product was recently awarded the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “Kids Eat Right” seal, which it can now feature on its product label? Ding ding ding. None other than Kraft Singles, otherwise known as Kraft Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.
Did I mention that Kraft Singles were the first product to receive this privilege? That’s right. When the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sat down to decide which product it should endorse first with its Kids Eat Right seal, they chose Kraft Singles. This happened in March 2015 and sparked some serious outcry both within and outside the dietician community, leading the Academy to pull the plug on the seal of approval only a few weeks later.
Funny how when the new label has to say “added sugars” or “GMO-free” or contain new nutrition facts, it’s too expensive for a company to possibly be able to comply—but when the new label comes from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they are more than happy to accept! In fact, Kraft had already printed up its new packaging with the Kids Eat Right logo when the Academy pulled the plug, so some packages sold will contain the logo for the near future. Very keen!
The future of labeling is a contentious issue for sure. What is the consumer entitled to know about a food product before purchasing? What should companies be allowed to advertise on their products? What claims should they be able to make? Why isn’t alcohol labeled? And who should decide? Some questions to ponder the next time you’re making your kids a nice snack of homogeneous plastic mass pasteurized process cheese product.