An indepth look at t6he ingredients of Vegetarian and non-vegetarian Cheeses

This information is primarily meant for western Krishna devotees and other
religious vegetarians who sometimes eat in fast food establishments. It is
not meant to question the reasons why they do this, but to offer some
perspective and certainty about the content of fast food products and the
information given by local personnel and management.

Here are a couple of general guidelines to bear in mind when visiting fast
food establishments:
The people behind the counters and in the kitchens usually do not know
anything substantial about the ingredients or source of their products.
Sadly, neither do the local managers. When asked about these things they may
lie straight in your face just to get off the topic. Usually they will be
more helpful, though, and even go as far as to check the food packaging for
ingredient listings or call the main office for information. This, however,
is not a common practice.

Don't trust hearsay. Even if others tell you that certain products are ok,
check them yourself. Don't go for the idea that because "so many devotees
eat it" or "devotees say it's ok" it must therefore be ok. In this way you
may become the victim of a whole group of badly informed devotees who
unknowingly eat food that contains meat or meat-derived products.

Mono- and diglycerides, and L-cysteine, two common additives found in
virtually all bread sold in the U.S.A., should be considered
animal/human-derived unless specified otherwise. Safe for a selected few,
all fast food and quick service chains use bread with the possibly
non-vegetarian varieties of these additives.

Most U.S.A. cheeses are made with enzymes instead of rennet. This does not
mean that they are therefore ok. Many of these enzymes are still
animal-derived, even when specifically mentioned to be microbial or fungal.
Three fungal enzymes produced by fermentation that go by various trade names
are used in cheese making. Mucor Pusillus rennet contains a microbial
protease obtained from the controlled fermentation of a fungus, Mucor
pusillus var. Iindt. Mucor Miehi rennet contains a microbial protease
obtained from the controlled fermentation of a fungus, Mucor miehei.
Endothia Cryphonectria rennet (formerly known as Enthothia parasitica)
contains a thermal labile microbial protease used in Swiss and Italian-type
cheeses that is obtained from Endothia cryphonectria. The main enzyme from
rennet used in cheese making is chymosin. Recent genetic engineering
techniques have made it possible to produce chymosin from microbial sources.
Scientists have isolated the gene responsible for chymosin production from
calves' stomachs and incorporated them into suitable microorganisms to
produce a convenient production organism. The first microbial chymosin was
affirmed GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the Food and Drug
Administration in 1989. The organisms currently approved for the production
of chymosin include the bacteria E. coli, the yeast Klyveromyces marxianus
var. Iactis and the fungus Aspergillus niger var. awamori. Industry
estimates are that approximately half of the chymosin used is currently
produced by this method. The chymosin produced by these organisms is
identical in structure to that produced by the calf stomach and provides the
same performance as pure calf rennet in terms of enzymatic activity, usage
and storage. However, they may contain trace amounts of non-enzymatic
proteins from the host organism. Lipase enzymes are utilized by the dairy
industry to develop characteristic cheese flavors, especially in Italian
cheese types or other varieties with strong flavor profiles. The chief
lipases for commercial use in the dairy industry include those from animal
sources (primarily calf, kid and lamb) as well as a microbial
esterase-lipase derived from a fermentation process with Mucor miehei. The
animal lipases are produced from the pregastric glandular material of the
animal. These enzymes are also used in the preparation of enzyme-modified
cheeses (EMC) and butters, which are used as flavor ingredients. In this
case, the finished cheese products are made into a slurry and then treated
with lipase, along with proteases and peptidases for flavor development.
According to their manufacturers the following cheese brands do not contain
rennet or any other nonvegetarian enzymes:

Cabot: All cheeses
Food Lion: Parmesan
Frigo: Mozzarella
Giant: Cheese made by Pauly, County Line Old World Swiss, Colby, Monterey
Jack, Cream Cheese, Natural Swiss slices, Natural Muenster slices, Biery
cheese, Chunk Cheese, New York Sharp, Wisconsin Cheddar, Longhorn, Swiss,
Danish Havarti, Pepper Jack
Kraft: Natural Swiss, Cream cheeses, Grated Parmesan
McCadam: All cheeses
Mid American Farms: Parmesan, Mozzarella, Cheddar
Organic Valley: All dairy products
Polly-O: All cheeses
Saputo cheeses: Low fat cheeses contain Vitamin A Palmitate (derived from
fish oil), Baby Swiss, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Lorraine, Mozzarella, Ricotta,
String cheese, Swiss
Sargento: Pepper, Muenster, Cheddar
Stella: Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Ricotta, String cheese
Super Brand (Winn Dixie): Cream cheese, Cottage cheese, Creamed butter
Tree of Life: All dairy products
For a full and up-to-date list, visit the National Vegetarian Cheese List.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG, Ve-Tsin) is an additive mostly found in Chinese,
Japanese, and Indonesian foods. This additive may cause physical problems
when taken in large quantities or by sensitive people. Some of the less
severe symptoms are headache, burning sensation in the stomach, and rapid
heart beat (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome). More long term and severe symptoms
can range from learning impairment and endocrine disorders to glaucoma and
macular degeneration. People with MSG sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy
can die from MSG ingestion. MSG is also sprayed on crops to stimulate
growth. Manufacturers do not have to mention MSG on their labels if it is
present in other listed ingredients. Unfortunately, the names of most other
MSG-containing ingredients won't give consumers even a clue to the fact that
the ingredients contain MSG. "Mono potassium glutamate," "autolyzed yeast,"
"hydrolyzed soy protein," and "sodium caseinate," are examples of
ingredients that always contain MSG. Under certain circumstances, hydrolyzed
protein products may be used as ingredients in other products without even
mentioning the original hydrolyzed protein products. For example,
"hydrolyzed soy protein," when used in "flavoring(s)," "natural
flavoring(s)," and "natural flavor(s)," does not have to be mentioned on
product labels when the food processor claims that the hydrolyzed protein is
being used for purposes other than flavoring. Many products will even have
"No MSG added" or a similar message on their labels although they do contain
products with MSG. False and misleading labels are illegal. It is
appropriate to ask your grocer not to carry these products, and to report
them to your local FDA office as well as to the Consumer Fraud Division of
your State Attorney General.
These are food label descriptors that contain enough MSG to serve as common
MSG-reaction triggers and always contain MSG:

Autolyzed yeast

Calcium caseinate



Glutamic acid

Hydrolyzed protein (any type)

Monosodium glutamate

Monopotassium glutamate

Sodium caseinate

Textured protein

Yeast nutrient

Yeast extract

Yeast food

These very often contain MSG:

Anything Protein fortified

Anything Enzyme modified

Barley malt


Flavor(s) and Flavoring(s)

Malt extract

Malt flavoring


Natural flavor(s) and flavoring(s)


Seasonings (the word "seasonings")

Soy sauce

Soy sauce extract

Soy protein

Soy protein concentrate

Soy protein isolate

Whey protein

Whey protein concentrate

Whey protein isolate
You should be aware that many food additives are, or can be, of animal
origin, and that many are harmful to children. You can find detailed
information about food additives here.