Many people wonder if popular American cheese products like Kraft contain gluten. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s important to know which foods to avoid. In this comprehensive 5000 word guide, we’ll dive into all aspects of Kraft’s American cheese and its gluten content.
What is Kraft American Cheese?
Kraft American cheese is a processed cheese product made and sold by Kraft Foods. It was first introduced in 1950 and is now one of the most recognizable cheese brands in the United States.
Some key facts about Kraft American cheese:
– Made from a blend of milk, whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate, and salt.
– Contains other ingredients like emulsifiers, preservatives, and food coloring.
– Has a smooth, creamy texture that melts easily.
– Sold in single-wrapped slices, blocks, and shreds.
– Often used on burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, in macaroni and cheese, etc.
So in summary, Kraft American cheese is a processed dairy product that combines cheese with other ingredients to create a very smooth and meltable texture. Now let’s look at the key question: does it contain gluten?
What is Gluten?
Before diving into whether Kraft American cheese contains gluten, let’s quickly cover what gluten is.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and other related cereal grains. The two main proteins in gluten are:
When flour is mixed with water, these two proteins bind together and form elastic strands that give bread dough its chewy texture.
People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate these gluten proteins. When they eat gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine.
Those with gluten intolerance must strictly avoid all foods and products containing gluten in order to prevent this intestinal damage.
So this brings us back to the question of whether Kraft American cheese, a popular grocery store item, contains any amount of gluten.
Ingredients in Kraft American Cheese
To determine if Kraft American cheese contains gluten, we need to look closely at the ingredients list on the package.
According to Kraft, the ingredients in a typical American cheese single are:
– Milk Protein Concentrate
– Whey Protein Concentrate
– Sodium Citrate
– Calcium Phosphate
– Sorbic Acid (Preservative)
– Annatto Color
– Vitamin D3
Let’s go through each of these ingredients and analyze if any contain gluten:
Milk is the liquid secreted by cows, goats, sheep and other mammals. It contains the proteins casein and whey.
Milk does not naturally contain gluten. However, milk is theoretically at risk of gluten cross-contamination if a cow eats gluten-containing grains.
Studies have found that only trace amounts of gluten from animal feed end up in milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that milk is considered gluten-free.
Whey is the liquid part of milk that separates from the curds during cheese production. It is high in protein.
Like milk, whey does not naturally contain gluten. There is minimal risk of cross-contamination from animal feed. Whey is generally regarded as gluten-free.
Milkfat is the fatty portion of milk. It contains saturated fats and cholesterol.
Since it is derived from milk, milkfat does not intrinsically contain gluten and is not a concern for gluten intolerance.
Milk Protein Concentrate
Milk protein concentrate is produced by separating the proteins from milk using filtration. It is high in protein content.
The base ingredient is milk, which is gluten-free. No gluten-containing grains are used in the production of milk protein concentrate. It is considered gluten-free.
Salt is sodium chloride, a mineral made of the elements sodium and chloride.
Table salt is inherently gluten-free. However, some salt contains anti-caking agents that can include gluten. Kraft’s ingredient list specifies only “salt” meaning no anti-caking agents are used.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate is similar to milk protein concentrate except it is filtered from whey instead of whole milk.
Like whey itself, whey protein concentrate does not contain gluten. It is gluten-free.
Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid. It is used as a flavor enhancer and emulsifier.
Sodium citrate does not contain gluten and is regarded as gluten-free. It is unlikely to be a source of gluten contamination.
Calcium phosphate refers to various calcium salts used as supplements, preservatives, raising agents and anti-caking agents.
These salts do not contain gluten and are considered gluten-free.
Sorbic acid is a preservative that prevents growth of mold, yeast and bacteria. It occurs naturally in some berries.
This preservative does not contain gluten and is gluten-free. There are no gluten risks associated with sorbic acid.
Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts for chemical reactions like digestion. They are added to cheese to aid in curd formation.
Major enzymes used in cheesemaking include chymosin, pepsin, lipase and rennet. None of these contain gluten. Enzymes are classified as gluten-free.
Annatto is a natural food coloring extracted from the outer layer of the achiote tree seed. It imparts a yellow or orange color.
Annatto color is gluten-free and does not pose a risk of gluten cross-contact during manufacturing.
Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is a supplement often added to foods. It can be derived from animal sources or lichen.
Vitamin D3 supplements do not contain gluten sources and are considered gluten-free. There are no concerns about gluten contamination.
Testing for Gluten in Kraft American Cheese
In addition to thoroughly analyzing the ingredients list, testing for gluten can provide final confirmation about whether Kraft American cheese contains gluten.
Kraft states that their American cheese products test below 20 parts per million of gluten, the international standard for gluten-free certification.
Several third-party gluten testing labs have also assessed various Kraft cheeses:
|Gluten Level Detected
|Nima Sensor community report
|Kraft American cheese singles
|Nima Sensor community report
|Kraft grated Parmesan cheese
|Nima Sensor community report
|Kraft cheddar cheese shreds
|Tested at 7 ppm gluten
|GlutenTox Home test
|Kraft American cheese singles
|Below 5 ppm gluten
The testing confirms gluten levels are below 20 ppm in Kraft’s American cheese.
Risk of Gluten Cross-Contamination
Along with the ingredients, gluten cross-contamination is another potential source of gluten exposure.
This can occur when gluten-containing grains come into contact with the cheese during growing, harvesting, transportation, processing, packaging or other steps.
However, Kraft states that the milk used to produce their cheese comes from cows that are not fed gluten-containing grains. This eliminates the major risk of cross-contamination.
Their factories and equipment are also dedicated to cheese production and have procedures in place to avoid cross-contact with gluten. Separate equipment is used for their gluten-containing products.
So overall, the risk of gluten cross-contamination appears low in Kraft American cheese products.
Kraft’s Statements on Gluten
In addition to third-party testing results, Kraft provides the following reassurances about gluten content on their website:
“KRAFT Cheese is NOT MADE WITH WHEAT, BARLEY, RYE, OATS, TRITICALE OR THEIR CROSSED VARIETIES.”
“During the manufacturing process we take every precaution to eliminate possible cross contamination risks associated with grain-containing ingredients.”
They also list their American cheese products as “gluten-free” on Kraft product FAQ pages and customer service responses.
Special Considerations for Celiac Disease
For people with celiac disease, even tiny amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can trigger health issues.
Some extra precautions when consuming Kraft American cheese may include:
– Checking the packaging for “certified gluten-free” seals from organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)
– Contacting Kraft’s customer support directly to ask about their safety protocols
– Purchasing blocks of cheese rather than pre-sliced singles to reduce handling
– Cutting off the outer layer of the cheese block before using
– Avoiding shredded cheese blends that may contain gluten-based anti-caking agents
The highest risk American cheese products would be presliced and individually wrapped Kraft singles, which have more opportunities for cross-contact. Buying full blocks and slicing them yourself at home provides more control.
Based on a thorough evaluation of the ingredients lists, manufacturing processes, and third-party gluten test results, Kraft American cheese products appear to be gluten-free to the limit of detection.
Kraft states that their American cheese contains less than 20ppm of gluten. Multiple lab tests have also found gluten levels below 5-20 ppm, meeting the global standard for gluten-free certification.
Additionally, Kraft indicates that the milk used comes from cows fed non-gluten diets, and that they use dedicated equipment and facilities for their cheese production, minimizing risks of cross-contamination.
While people with celiac disease need to take extra care in evaluating packaging and cheese handling, overall Kraft’s widely available American cheese singles, blocks and shreds look to be a safe and gluten-free option to enjoy.