Is Cheese Safe?

Researching Rennet For Meat Allergies & Vegetarianism

Some people choose to have meals that are cheese based. Why? Meat may cause allergic reactions. A vegetarian eats cheese for protein. Whether vegetarianism, allergies, or simply a lover of all things cheese - you are part of a growing crowd. In 2019, the average American ate over 40 pounds of cheese a year. There are over 2,000 varieties of cheese: one for every taste.

Cheese is a nutrient powerhouse, rich in protein, calcium, magnesium , folate, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, A, D, and E. Dairy promotes strong bones and teeth, regulates blood pressure and, when choosing low fat, helps with weight management.

Conversely, cheese can be high in fat and sodium, making it a food that needs to be limited in the case of heart disease and weight management. A lesser-known problem exists for people allergic to meat and for vegetarians: Rennet. This is what makes liquid milk turn solid. Rennet is made from animal and vegetable sources. Once cheese is made, up to 50% rennet remains. It is hard to discern the source of rennet.

In the United States, 90% of our cheeses are made from non-meat rennet. Manufacturers use FPC (Fermentation Produced Chymosin) rennet, a genetically modified organism (GMO). Rennet is on the GRAS list, meaning it is generally recognized as safe. However, is it safe? That question is yet to be answered.

How can you distinguish the type of rennet? Organic cheese legally cannot have FPC rennet but might have animal rennet. Kosher cheese is a safe bet, as meat and dairy are separated for religious reasons. That still leaves hundreds of cheeses unaccounted for in the dairy aisle.
Check the ingredient list; these words might mean animal or FPC rennet:
 Animal Enzyme
 Chymosin
 Enzymes
 Lipase Enzyme
 Microbial Rennet
 Rennet
 Vegetable Rennet
There are plant-based rennet cheeses from local artisanal cheesemakers - Bardwell Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Gold Farm and River’s Edge. Some national cheesemakers may offer options. The opposite is true of imported cheeses such as Asiago, Camembert, Cheddar, Feta, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Havarti, Parmesan/Reggiano, Pecorino, etc. Contact the manufacturer to
confirm the type of rennet used.

Cheese is a delicious food that delivers great taste and good nutrition with every mouthful. Making sure that it is made with vegetable and FPC-free rennet will require work on your part, but it is certainly worth the effort. What would your pizza be without cheese?

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Jennifer sees clients for nutrition counseling in Westfield and online.

By calling (413) 579-5450 or emailing her at jen@jenthedietitian.com.

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