The Truth About Cheese

Ever since I started eating vegetarian (about a year ago) I've noticed that animal derived ingredients are not necessarily required to be listed on standard package ingredient lists.

Most notably, on cheese. The ingredient 'enzymes' can refer to animal or vegetable derived sources.

In some cases, animal ingredients can be hidden in the 'natural flavors' clause.

In other instances yet, several chemical sounding, impossible to pronounce additives can be animal in origin.

And the debate rages on about sugar. Many sugars may be refined through animal bone char.

My issue is that companies are not obligated by law to disclose the origins of such mystery ingredients.

Clearly, there is no strong vegetarian or vegan lobby in Washington or measures would already be in place.

Americans have a right to know whether they are eating calf stomach enzymes or microbial. Jewish people have a right to know if the cheese they are eating contains pig stomach enzymes. Hindus have a right to know if their cheese or sugar has dead cows in it.

The FDA by and large is a useless gaggle of overpaid, cranky old men who do nothing to benefit the lives of the American people. Nevertheless they have a duty to make certain we are thoroughly informed as to what we are consuming.

They are not fulfilling that duty. They are allowing cheese makers, sugar producers and many other food companies to withhold or otherwise conceal the fact that animal derived ingredients are a part of their seemingly vegetarian/vegan foods.

Whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan is really beside the point. No one wants to eat calf stomach enzymes without knowing it. Plenty of omnivores are staunchly opposed to eating veal (cow calf). Others still are opposed to consuming pork (pigs/swine). Yet thanks to lenient labelling regulations by the FDA, tons of Americans are eating veal and pork every day and they don't even know it!

Do you know what's in your food?

Reading the ingredients list won't help. Because many animal derived sources are cloaked in terms like cheese enzymes and natural flavor.

Either spend the rest of your life e-mailing each food company to determine what those mystery ingredients are (and receive vague replies that only half answer your questions) or demand that the FDA sanction animal derived ingredient disclosures.