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Vettors settle better cheddar by letter of U.S. law

What are the standards for “cheddar” as a food ingredient?

I see fast-food and prepared-meal products (and their advertising) calling something “cheddar” when it hardly seems cheese.

A great deal of aged cheddar cheese is produced in Oregon. You’d think those cheese producers making genuine cheddar would be upset at food products that falsely use the word “cheddar.”

— Herb C., Medford

The federal government is very specific in the naming and labeling of cheddar cheese, not to mention varieties too numerous to count ranging alphabetically from asiago to Swiss.

To get intensely bureaucratic for just one moment, Title 21, Volume 2, Section 133.113 of the Code of Federal Regulations devotes more than 600 words and about a dozen subsections to cheddar cheese alone, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration website.

In broad strokes, the government defines cheddar cheese as made from milk or cream, the animal based enzyme rennet among other enzymes and clotting agents, which are cultured and set into a “semisolid mass.”

The curd mass is cut, stirred, heated, drained and aged for at least 60 days at 35 degrees.

We’ll spare you further moisture, milkfat and handling minutiae, but the government most certainly does not.

Whether you consider American cheese made from about 50 percent real cheese to be “cheese” depends on whether you’re British or not, but cheddar cheese is a common ingredient in processed cheese.

American cheese typically involves blending bona fide cheddar (or Muenster, Colby or Swiss) with emulsifiers such as monosodium phosphate, enzymes, salt and spices.

What you may notice on packaged food, however, is the difference between “cheddar” the noun and “cheddar” the adjective used to describe a flavor. For the same reason you may have noticed more granola bars on store shelves these days with “chocolatey” chips if the chips aren’t made with cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.