Most of us probably grew up with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese as a staple in our diet and if you have kids, you’ve probably made more than your share of quick-dinners from the familiar blue-box. Why wouldn’t you? It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s fast, and, it’s good for you.. Right?
Nothing artificial, but where’s the cheese?
Kraft’s newest marketing campaign assures us that it’s Mac & Cheese now contains no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives and no artificial dyes but does it contain any cheese?
Originally, Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese actually did contain a fair amount of real cheese, according to the list of ingredients. As shown on this ingredients label from 1974, the cheese sauce contained:
- Kraft cheddar cheese
- Skim milk powder
- Whey powder
- Sodium phosphate
- Lactic acid
Fast forward to 2016, and the list of ingredients has gotten bigger:
- Milk protein concentrate
- Sodium triphosphate
- Citric acid
- Lactic acid
- Sodium phosphate
- Calcium phosphate
- Cheese culture
Nowhere on the list of ingredients for the cheese sauce do we find “cheese”. The closest we can find is the very last ingredient on the list which is “cheese culture”. It’s listed last on the label which means it contains less cheese-culture than any other ingredient.
What is cheese “culture”?
Cheese cultures are bacteria. Real cheese, such as cheddar is made from rennet and milk. The cheese sauce ingredients include “enzymes” and “cheese culture” which are ingredients used in real cheese.
In addition to the enzymes and cheese culture, Mac & Cheese also contains “milk fat” and “milk protein concentrate” – all of the basic building blocks for cheese. So although Kraft Mac and Cheese does not contain “natural cheese”, aka the type of cheese you buy at the store, it does contain all of the parts, that when mixed together with the milk that you add, is technically and legally recognized by the FDA as “cheese”.
Nothing artificial in it?
As mentioned earlier, Kraft’s newest marketing push is:
…now contains no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives and no artificial dyes…
So that means Mac & Cheese has all-natural ingredients only, right? WRONG! It simply means that any flavor, preservatives or dyes aren’t artificial. There could still be plenty of other ingredients that aren’t dye, preservatives or flavors that are 100% artificial.
Lets look at some of those ingredients listed above with the big names:
Sodium triphosphate is a multi-use chemical. It’s used as either a preservative in foods, and as a toilet cleaner. It’s made from sodium, phosphorous, and oxygen – all “natural” elements, so don’t worry, that toilet soap/preservative in your Mac & Cheese is not “artificial”!
Sodium phosphate is used as both a laxative and a thickening agent for food. It’s made from sodium and phosphate, both of which are natural and not “artificial”.
Calcium phosphate is also from natural sources (ie; not “artificial”) and is commonly used in cooking to help prevent ingredients from clumping up.
So yes, technically, Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese does contain a form of Cheese, and yes, any dyes, preservatives or flavorings are technically natural.