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Product classification: Dairy Cheese or Analogue cheese?

Cheese authenticity and quality

By Savvas Xystouris, Technical/Development Manager, Proficiency Testing, LGC
19th September 2017

Consumers need to have access to safe and high quality food. Agri-food products of high commercial value such as dairy products, olive oil, honey, meat and fish have traditionally been the target of fraud. The prevention of fraud and promotion of authentic products is vital to ensure the commercial success of agricultural and food products on international markets and to protect consumer rights.

In line with these concerns, the European Union (EU) established a system to grant food products with quality logos. The logos are “Protected Designation of origin” (PDO), “Protected Geographical origin” (PGI) or “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG)”. 232 cheese products are currently registered on Database of Origin and Registration (DOOR) Commission system of which 188 are granted with the strictest PDO quality logo from all over the EU. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is a fresh soft cheese produced in 7 provinces in Italy from Campania buffalo milk under specific PDO rules and requirements, which can only be sold if pre-packaged at place of origin.

During a UK Trading standards surveillance operation in 2016, 40 “mozzarella cheese” pizzas were purchased from takeaways across the UK. Five of them contained a “cheese” substitute known as “analogue cheese” instead of “100% mozzarella cheese” (as stated). Adulteration of cheese with a PDO grant damages the reputation of the product and erodes consumer confidence. 

Cheese “analogue” or imitation cheese is a non-dairy product of the food industry and was developed predominantly for vegan or vegetarian consumers as a “cost-effective” alternative.

However, although visibly similar, imitation cheese is not chemically indistinguishable from dairy cheese and testing can distinguish whether imitation cheese has been used.

Sample 800: Cheese authenticity and quality can help establish or confirm the efficacy of this testing and ensure analytical methods are fit-for-purpose.

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