Monday, January 23, 2012

There's Gluten on my Shredded Cheese?

I did a double-take when my wife first came home from the Dr.'s office and said she needed to be gluten free and that things like shredded cheese were off the list.

Did I hear that right, cheese?  I thought cheese was a product derived from milk, not wheat.

That's when I learned that a bag of pre-shredded cheese has more than just cheese in it -- something I had previously not recognized.  The added ingredient was traditionally flour.

Why the addition?  If you've ever shredded your own cheese before, you know that the shreds can stick together.  To prevent this from happening, companies add an ingredient or two to prevent the shreds from sticking.

That was a couple of years ago and many cheese companies have found different ways other than glutenous products to prevent the natural stickiness.  But, you should still be aware of this new addition to your cheese.

For instance, instead of flour, the Sargento cheese company uses a few different things in their shredded cheese, including wood pulp or cotton.  Yep, wood, on your cheese.  You won't find wood mentioned in the ingredients, instead it will read "powdered cellulose" or microcrystalline cellulose.  The other items in this brand could include potato starch and calcium carbonate.  The good news is that these don't have gluten.  The bad news is that you may just not want to eat it though they are presumed to be safe.


The other large national brand, Kraft, had nothing on their web site regarding their shredded cheese, but I found numerous blog posts that mention similar/same extra ingredients.

What we do to solve our issue is buy block cheese and shred what we need with a nice microplane grater.  There are a few of benefits to this including knowing where your cheese comes from (perhaps you want cheese made from grass-fed dairy cows), that there are no added by-products, and saving a bit of money by not having your cheese pre-shredded.

Even if you're not concerned with gluten, get yourself a nice microplane grater (I got mine at World Market for $9.99), some nice cheese and start shredding.  I think you will like having more control.

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