Fridays are our family pizza nights. I prepare the pizza dough from scratch. During the summer I use fresh tomatoes, basil and other herbs from the garden. But for a long time, I’ve always used packaged shredded cheese. I’ve settled down with a brand of shredded mozzarella for its taste, until I was alerted by my husband about one of the ingredients. Even though, I always consider myself the most informed about food sources and ingredients in our household, I was surprised that I totally missed this one.
If you happen to check the ingredients of any packaged shredded cheese of any kind., you will see an ingredient called “cellulose or powdered cellulose”. Powdered cellulose, in plain English, is very fine wood pulp or other plant fiber. It is used to prevent the shredded cheese from sticking back to each other. I went out and checked all the cheese in the shredded cheese section in our grocery store.
Then I noticed some of them didn’t have powdered cellulose in them. Yay!
But they had “calcium sulfate” instead of powdered cellulose. What is calcium sulfate you ask? It is calcium salt that is used for a variety of purposes including building materials, as a desiccant, in dentistry as an impression material, cast, or die, and in medicine for immobilizing casts and as a tablet excipient. It exists in various forms and states of hydration. Examples are Plaster of Paris, mineral gypsum etc.
No matter what brand of cheese I picked, branded ones, generic brands, or what type of cheese I choose, mozzarella, monterrey, cheddar cheese, every single of shredded cheese had one type of an additive to prevent caking.
Even the organic shredded cheeses had cellulose in them.
Organic wood pulp?
One wonders since even the organic brands are using powdered cellulose shouldn’t it be safe? I’ve done extensive research on the internet and read many articles like this one or this one. Eventually, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no escape from these ingredients if I’m using the packaged shredded cheese. However, from my perspective it’s ironic that I am trying to make these pizzas every week from scratch using wholesome ingredients yet, the second most ingredient contains additives. It is much healthier and practical to buy a block of cheese and grate it myself fresh right before I sprinkle on top my pizza dough.
I understand there has to be an ingredient to prevent caking. When I shred extra cheese and store in the refrigerator, they are stuck together the next day. However, if I make my own yogurt, homemade bone broth or pre-packaged waffle and pancake mix at home, I can surely shred cheese in my food processor.
I buy a whole block of cheese from the deli section of my grocery store. I shred the cheese using my food processor. It takes me extra 2 minutes to change the blade in the food processor and shred the cheese. if you don’t have a food processor to grate faster, instead of shredded cheese, you can lay thinly sliced or pulled string cheese on pizza as well. All work fine.
Have you heard about the cellulose content of packaged shredded cheese before? If yes, were you concerned?