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m
Ma Kulit Sep 25, 2001 12:46 AM

Here in Seattle, we get a San Diego brand of packaged mozzarella Precious. It comes in two [front label] types -- regular and low-fat. Imagine my surprise when I examined the nutrition labels and found the low-fat was higher in both fat and calories than the regular!

If I recall correctly, it is:

REGULAR - 80 kcal / 5% fat
LOW-FAT - 90 kcal / 9% fat

(I forget the absolute fat values [i.e. grams], but they corresponded to the percentages. That is, there is nothing weird going on in terms of differing densities or anything affecting the ratios.)

At first I thought it was a mislabelled item, but after a couple of months of looking, I see they're all like that! I also note that the regular one says part-skim, whereas the "low-fat" one says "whole milk", albeit only in fine print on the back.

So, as best as I can tell, "low-fat" means low in fat for a cheese which is higher in fat for starters.

Now, just when my head is spinning from the above, I find one (and only one) low-fat which has "part-skim" in the fine print on the back, and this one is indeed lower in fat (55 kcal / 3% fat).

Here in table form:

REGULAR [part-skim] - 80 kcal / 5% fat
LOW-FAT [whole] - 90 kcal / 9% fat
LOW-FAT [part-skim] - 55 kcal / 3% fat

I could *almost* stomach that, except to point out that the last one is exceptionally rare. Far and wide most of the "low-fats" are of the 90 kcal variety.

Can anyone clear this up?

  1. r
    Ruth Lafler Sep 27, 2001 05:12 PM

    You've actually cleared it up yourself. "Low fat" in this case means not only that it meets the government requirement to be called "low fat" but also that it is a lower fat version of a cheese that has a required *minimum* fat content for the "regular" version.

    "Whole milk ricotta" and "part-skim ricotta" are different foods (with different required fat contents) and there can then be "low fat" versions of either of them.

    I'm familiar with the Precious ricotta line and agree the labeling can be confusing (although it seems to me that "part skim" is usually visable on the front logo as well and/or has a different color scheme). Precious also makes a fat-free ricotta which I do not recommend under any circumstances.

    The fact that one is "exceptionally rare" is actually the fault of the store that is apparently not displaying these items as distinct products, but jumbling them together -- you should tell them you're unhappy with the selection and the way it is displayed.

    1. z
      zora Sep 26, 2001 10:07 PM

      It may have to do with the "serving size," with the fat/calorie count in the low-fat cheese being calculated for a larger portion. I recently picked up a small low-carb nutrition bar, which couldn't have weighed more than a couple of ounces, and read the back of the label. The nutrition content was listed as 23 calories per serving--but there were supposedly seven servings per bar. There weren't even seven bites in the darn thing!

      2 Replies
      1. re: zora
        i
        ironmom Sep 27, 2001 08:27 AM

        I was under the impression that the government cracked down on that bizarre practice ten years ago. I remember snack bags that used to hold one ounce, and according to the label, contained 1-5/8 servings, making the data unusable.

        1. re: zora
          r
          R EISMAN Dec 11, 2001 09:11 AM

          NUTTRION LABELS HAVE DRAWBACKS,AS NOTED ;AND SERVING SIZE IS ONE OF THEM. A 200 LB. ACTIVE INDIVIDUAL CONSUMES A LARGER PORTION THAN 110LB SEDENTERY COUNTERPART, BUT THERE IS JUST SO MUCH SPACE ON THE LABEL AND A DEFINITVE RENDERING WOULD BE UNWIELDY. KNOWING WHETHER 3 SLICES OF CHEESECAKE
          IS 110% OR 150% OF THE RECOMMENDED INTAKE OF SATURATED FAT IS LIKE ASKING IF IT'S SAFER TO DRIVE AT 96MPH OR 99MPH. A QUICK LOOK AT THE LABEL EASILY DISTINGUISHES TOMATO JUICE FROM SNICKERS, THEN YOU MAKE A CHOICE .

        2. c
          Carolyn Tillie Sep 25, 2001 12:14 PM

          This leads back to the philosophies of the Slow Food movement which is to eat wholesome, locally prepared, natural foods. So many of the processes involved in making a food lower in fat alter the flavor. Personally, I refrain from any pre-prepared packaged foods (with a rare Trader Joe's exception) but never bother with any food reputed to be lower in fat. I tend to think I am living a healthier lifestyle by staying away from the processing procedures and the chemicals involved therein.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Carolyn Tillie
            i
            ironmom Sep 25, 2001 12:53 PM

            I know an older woman who keeps saying that she wishes someone would figure out a way to remove that "bad" butterfat from cheese and replace it with a "healthy" vegetable oil. I tell her that they already make Velveeta, but she clings to her fantasy of "real" "healthy" cheese.

          2. 2
            2chez mike Sep 25, 2001 11:56 AM

            That's why it always pays to read the fine print on food labels.

            1. i
              ironmom Sep 25, 2001 08:53 AM

              My first guess is that someone made an error when making up the nutrition facts table, there was no proofreader, and no one has critically read this and pointed it out.

              My feeling on nutrition information is that, while some companies send out food products for analysis, some look up the ingredients of the recipes in a reference book, calculate, and divide by some logical (to them) serving size, and present these numbers. Someone taking a shortcut may just copy the label of a competing product they feel is similar. If the person assigned to do this task is clueless (and thus doesn't know they're clueless) they can put some really weird info there.

              I used to buy raspberry twirl rolls from a local farmer who had a contract to sell to a supermarket as well. These rolls were huge, and they were heavy. I think I weighed one in at 6 ounces. The label he had made up said they weighed one ounce and had 120 calories.

              Your best bet is to contact the factory and try to get them to explain it to you. You'll be doing them a favor.

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