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Here in Europe (and perhaps only in Spain) I've noticed that most of the cheeses (hard and soft, but more often hard) contain a interesting list of artificial additives in the ingredient list: Conservatives, acid correctors, colors etc. Finding cheeses without these is a real chore. Going organic helps, but the offerings are small.

My questions are:

  1. Is it like that everywhere else?
  2. How bad is it for the consumers?
  3. Why do they do it? is there a law of some kind regarding this?

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2 Answers

Here in the states it depends on where in the grocery store you look. Usually behind the deli counter and in the dairy isle, yes most the large commercial cheeses are loaded up with additives and preservatives. In a store like Whole Foods (increasingly in traditional grocers too), there is usually a devoted cheese section. If you look at those cheeses, you'll often find the only ingredients to be milk, enzymes, salt. There are also local farmers markets that often have a variety of handmade cheeses that are less likely to have additives/preservatives as well.

Question 2 Is subjective and depends on what the consumer is after. The mass-produced stuff is more homogeneous in color/taste, can have a longer shelf life, and is generally cheaper than the other offerings. As far as health concerns, many customers feel that you are better off avoiding unnecessary additives though I don't believe there is much subjective evidence supporting one side over the other.

Roux has it right on for point number three. Safest assumption for why a company does something a certain way is cost.

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  1. yes, for mass-market products
  2. better than the doomsayers would have it, but worse than the lobbyists and manufacturers say. personally i'm on the side of 'cheese should be made of milk and bacteria, with perhaps some other natural ingredients added (e.g. port, guinness, caraway seeds, etc)
  3. often in order to save money, provide consistency in a mass-produced product, or (occasionally) to adhere to overly-fussy government regulations
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