Annatto and Allergies

A reader writes:

Is there any way for a regular person to influence the food industry (especially cheesemakers)? I am highly allergic to the coloring Annatto--used in most of the yellow colored cheeses (I know there are lots of other yummy non-yellow cheeses out there, but sometimes you just want a good slice of American on a sandwich). I am sure there are other people that have the same problem. I wonder why we have to put Annatto tree bark in perfectly good cheese (and other products too). There is more and more bark going into our foods recently. Is there any way to make it stop?

Rob Kaufelt on American Cheese

I was reminiscing on my changing relationship to American cheese, specifically yellow slices wrapped in plastic. Once, as an American kid, I ate my share of grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers. Later, as a supermarket dairy supervisor, I reset all the dairy cases in our company to give this product its maximum shelf space for sales and profit. Still later, as Murray's proprietor, I scorned it, dismissing it for all the usual reasons a cheesemonger might.

New Cabot OU Kosher Cheese

Cabot Cheese, legendary Vermont cheese makers, have announced a new line of OU-certified Kosher cheeses, just in time for Chanukkah. Previously, Cabot's cheeses were certified kosher by the Tablet K agency, one which many observant Jews believe to offer an inadequate seal. OU, by contrast, is accepted on a much wider scale, and so this offering from Cabot should delight many kosher consumers. See the

Think Outside the Bug

This post isn't about cheese specifically, but does cover important issues facing the dairy industry. Please forgive a slightly off-topic rant for an increasingly urgent message.

News broke on Sunday that 11 people, the youngest being a one year-old infant, had caught the E. coli bug from eating at Taco Bell restaurants in three different counties in New Jersey. Today, reports are revising that number to as many as 50 cases, spread over three states.

Easy Cheese Laid Bare

Easy Cheese, that orange, processed so-called cheese in an aerosol can, is a cultural marvel. (And also, what's so damn hard about eating regular cheese anyway?) So much so that this month's Wired Magazine has an article that explores the many bizarre ingredients that go into every can of this party favorite. The ultimate irony: this "cheese" is mostly whey!

American Cheese

Most of the varieties of cheese we eat were originally created in Europe: Brie, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Emmenthaler. But this country can be proud of several distinct varieties that can be called uniquely American (Colby, Brick and Monterey Jack among them). Unfortunately, though, the one variety that goes by the name of its home country is probably the worst cheese anywhere in the world.

American cheese, a.k.a. process cheese, a.k.a. processed cheese, can be found all over the industrialized world now, but in a sense it is a distinctly American food, born of a culture obsessed with efficiency, scalability, and reliability, and without a distinctive gastronomic tradition to guide it. If you're like me you grew up eating the waxy, iridescent orange, individually plastic-wrapped slices of

Cows Genetically Modified to Produce Protein-Enriched Milk

File this under humanity's ongoing pursuit of hubris, the New Scientist is reporting that scientists in New Zealand have created cows that have been genetically modified to produce protein-rich milk for cheesemaking. The cows are basically given extra protein-making genes, and the milk that results is up to 20% more protein enriched. And because cheese is basically fat plus protein (in the form of casein), protein enriched milk will create a higher yield of cheese.

As much as I love cheese and other dairy products, I do recognize that even in the smallest of farmstead operations, a certain amount of cow exploitation occurs. Even if the cows are treated fantastically well, the simple process of milking is, at the very least, an imposition. Simply picture human women being milked

Possible Listeria Drives Recall in Australia

Australian Cooperative Foods is recalling their Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp 500g cheese due to fears of listeria contamination. Since this cheese is made from pasteurized milk, this outbreak should serve as further evidence that listeria is not just a problem for raw-milk cheeses, but is a larger problem for food safety in general. Read the full story here.

Kraft Sees Organics Going Mainstream

NOT FOUND: 1 alignDavid Johnson, president of Kraft Foods' North American Commercial Group, said on Wednesday that he sees the organic movement as "a freight train that's going to pick up steam. I don't think it's a fad." This announcement, made at the Reuters Food Summit in Chicago, comes in the wake of a recent announcement by Wal-Mart that they will begin stocking twice as many organic products as before. Read the full story here.

What is Cheese?

The National Farmers Union, an organization formed to "sustain and strengthen family farms and ranch agriculture," has released a response to the FDA's proposal to change the definition of milk. Now the last time I checked, the definition of milk was pretty straightforward: "A whitish liquid containing proteins, fats, lactose, and various vitamins and minerals that is produced by the mammary glands of all mature female mammals after they have given birth and serves as nourishment for their young." The FDA, however, is proposing to amend the definition of milk, at least as it relates to cheese production. They want to provide for

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