Since the 16th century, cooks have crafted recipes for making cream cheese. This soft, fresh cheese is simply made, and has a delectable ‘tang’, making it perfect for many uses. In the late 19th century upstate New York dairy farmers created a commercial brand that came to be known as “Philadelphia”, eventually it became the nation’s leader in the competitive cream cheese market.

In 1928, Kraft Foods purchased the company which produced Philadelphia Brand and brought it to new heights of commercial success. Today, when they speak of cream cheese in Mexico, they call it ‘queso filadelfia‘, owing largely to Kraft’s successful marketing.  Generations of Americans have grown up knowing the Philadelphia Brand, and cooks in particular have favored it for over 80 years for their recipes.

Recently though, Kraft has changed the recipe for making their famous cream cheese, adding three gums — Guar Gum, Carob Gum and Xanthan Gum, among other non-natural, safe chemicals.  The result, you may not have noticed, is a bouncy, glossy and much changed product.  When I go to spread cream cheese on my bagel in the morning, I do not expect to see a bright glossy shine on it.

Gum in my cheese

Nor do I expect to see cream cheese have a ‘bounce’ to it.  Yes, I’m being quite critical, but shouldn’t we expect consistency in the products we eat, and less chemical use stretching out the natural ingredients?  After all, if these changes go unchecked, won’t we eventually be eating naturally flavored artificial ingredients only?   While Philadelphia’s Whipped Cream Cheese includes mostly natural dairy products (as mandated by law at 35%), the remaining 65% are chemicals or unnatural products.

Such products as Guar, Xanthan and Carob gums are not natural ingredients in cheeses.  They simply do not belong there.  Cheese is a marvelous relationship between milk and molds that products delicious results.  It doesn’t need a Ph.D. in chemical engineering to make it. And cheese shouldn’t need clearance from the Atomic Energy Commission to be eaten. Kraft needs to stop playing around with their chemistry sets and return to producing great foods with fantastic natural ingredients.

Here’s a list of their ingredients: Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, and Milkfat, Whey, Whey Protein Concentrate, Cheese Culture, Salt, Calcium Phosphate,  Stabilizers (Xanthan Gum, and/or Carob Bean Gum, and/or Guar Gum), Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid, as a preservative,  Natural Flavor,  Vitamin A Palmitate.

They have to add natural flavor? Shouldn’t food HAVE natural flavor? And doesn’t that say that the products are so artificially produced that it doesn’t actually have flavor of its own?  Cream cheese should be milk and cream, and a starter.  No more.

I’m not one who’s outspoken about Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) or opposed, in principle, to the use of some chemical preservatives, but gum?  If I wanted gum in my foods I’d just chew Dentyne or Wrigley’s.  Please stop it Kraft, get realistic, and go back to your roots.  This painful discovery has, if nothing else, made me a advocate of home-made foods.  Kraft has finally convinced me to avoid processed foods of any kind, not only losing my custom, but my faith.

As it turns out, making cream cheese is not a complex task. It requires cream, milk, a starter, butter cloth, care and patience.  So, despite having created cheeses for clients on a commercial scale, for the first time, I’m setting about making my own, at home because I welcome the chance to enjoy the great flavor I enjoyed when I was young.  And yes, I’ll use organic ingredients, just to make sure I’m eating safely.

If you aren’t inclined to try home cheese-making, look for some of the organic food artisinal cheesemakers near you.

In California, check out http://www.sierranevadacheese.com/
In Oregon, check http://www.nancysyogurt.com/index.php/products/organic-cream-cheese
In Vermont,  try http://www.cvcream.com/cheese_new.htm

Just think for a moment, of the tens of thousands of recipes from around the world that use cream cheese.  From Crab Rangoon to Cheesecake, the question becomes how do these chemicals bond, interact or react with the recipes you’re using them in, or the conditions in which you’ll use them.  Sure we may spread cream cheese on a bagel, or turn it into a dip, but what happens when you add other ingredients and bake it? How does the resulting combination of chemicals affect you? Adding chemicals must be a known entity, and in this case, we just don’t know.

If you agree or disagree, please comment below.

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