Cheddar bunnies, goldfish, mac & cheese
I took an interest in American cheese and cheese products when I noticed lots of kids eating these things at the playground, and in friends homes. It seemed to me, in America many children are eating cheddar bunnies, goldfish and mac & cheese, all of which have the hazardous glow of yellow, deriving from the ideal yellow of American cheddar cheese. These food items are common place in lots of households and I wondered what exactly are these thing made from? What are the kids are eating and so looked into the ingredients.
All of these food items have added colour, and while in some instances particular product brands labeled colour as ‘natural’ it does not seem natural to put added colours in common, often, or everyday snack foods, even ‘natural colour’ in food, especially for children. Worrying also is the amount of fat, and numerous other highly processed ingredients….but that will be another post!
After doing some research on American cheese and why it is so orange/yellow I discovered that orange cheese has a slightly different story to other cheeses. According to cheese historians, the colour originated many years ago in England. Cow’s milk contains varying amounts of beta carotene, the yellow-orange stuff found in carrots and other vegetables. Milk from pasture-fed cows (the ideal way for a cow to be fed) has higher beta-carotene levels in the spring and summer, when the cows are munching on fresh grass, and lower levels during the fall and winter, when they’re eating hay. The natural color of the cheese varies over the course of a year, so cheese makers began adding coloring agents.
Nowadays the most common of these is annatto a yellow-red dye made from the seeds of a tree of the same name. Dyeing the cheese covered over seasonal colour fluctuations and also played into the fact (or anyway the belief) that spring/summer milk had a higher butterfat content than the fall/winter kind and thus produced more flavorful cheese.
Thus the development of American cheese and orange cheese product. American cheese is a common processed cheese, in America, I say this as you do not see this orange cheese so commonly in other countries. It is orange or yellow color and mild in flavor, with a medium-firm consistency, and melts easily. American cheese was originally only white, but is now often modified to be darker in color. It has traditionally been made from a blend of cheeses, most often Colby and Cheddar. Today’s American cheese is generally no longer made from a blend of all-natural cheeses, but instead is manufactured from a set of ingredients such as milk, whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate, and salt When substitutes are used it does not meet the legal definition of cheese in many jurisdictions, and must be labeled as “cheese product” or similar.
I specifically went out and bought these bunnies, goldfish and mac & cheese and gave them to my family. Maya (actually non of us ate it) would not eat the mac and cheese, and said it looked horrible (smart girl!) and while they both Maya and Elle enjoyed the bunnies and fish, it made them very thirsty and neither of them had a dinner appetite for good or proper food afterwards as they normally would when their afternoon snack was fruit.
It does not take much to educate yourself and when you do find out about things it is easy to go without, because really, who would want to eat junk? Our household will happily remain yellow bunnie, goldfish and packet mac free.