CHICAGO—Reducing fat and sodium in cheese, while maintaining quality and safety, continues to be a challenge for the dairy industry, according to a new study in the June/July Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.
“Cheese is a nutrient-dense food; however, it is also perceived as being high in fat and sodium. This discourages some consumers from including cheese in their diets,” wrote Mark Johnson, lead researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “There are a few reduced-fat products but very few low-fat or fat-free products that have desirable functionality and flavor.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to make label claims of “reduced sodium” or “reduced fat,” most foods need to have at least a 25-percent reduction of sodium or fat levels when compared with its conventional counterpart. For Cheddar to be labeled “low fat,” there would have to be an 82-percent reduction in total fat due to the FDA requirement that the three grams of fat allowed for low-fat foods be calculated per 50 grams, not per the 30-gram reference amount.
With the current 50-gram rule, the sodium level in Cheddar, mozzarella and processed cheeses would have to be reduced by 55 percent, 47 percent and 80 percent, respectively, to achieve low-sodium status. If the 50-gram rule were eliminated, it would enable cheesemakers to more easily make low-sodium products and provide consumers with more options to reduce sodium intake.