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johnpowell's avatar

Does anyone else have a violent reaction to shredded cheese?

Asked by johnpowell (17881points) August 2nd, 2017

This is going to sound crazy but follow through with me.

I eat a lot of burritos that I make at home and I am really lazy. So I buy pre-shredded cheese.

Specifically this. Actually, Tillamook switched things up about four months ago and now only sells the “Farm Style Cut” shredded. They used to sell a finely shredded medium cheddar.

I hate the “Farm cut” and this is what led to my discovery.

So I have been buying the pre-shredded stuff for a few years and after a few bites it always gave me heartburn. Sometimes to the point of vomiting. (20% vomit) But I would eat a few bites and clutch my chest for a few minutes and maybe vomit and then continue eating. For some reason I was okay with this. I wasn’t sure why it happened and I didn’t really care.

So when Tillamook went with the farm cut thing I switched to the Safeway brand of shredded cheese. Then I noticed no more painful chest-clutching or vomiting.

So I tested. With this no pain. Shredded by hand.

Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (color).

Here is the shredded of what should be the same cheese.

Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (color), Potato Starch (added to prevent caking), Natamycin (natural mold inhibitor).

So something is going on here with the two extra ingredients.

Any idea why “Potato Starch” or “Natamycin” would cause such a violent reaction in my body? And am I alone in being having such a reaction?

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18 Answers

Sneki2's avatar

“In humans, a dose of 500 mg/kg/day repeated over multiple days caused nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.”

From Wikpedia page on natamycin

It also says some people are allergic to it. Check it with a doctor.

It may as well be unrelated to cheese.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’d like to get an idea of the dose. How much of the cheese do you eat in one sitting?
Can you weigh a typical portion?

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think that it’s an ignominious end for a poor piece of cheese. Cheese has a thousands-of-year history and a great lineage of fine taste.

To be shredded and thrown on sandwich is just…. inhumane. I react violently to the disrespect show to cheese.

flutherother's avatar

It looks like it’s the natamycin. Whole Foods has banned it though it is FDA approved. It is also known as E235 “May cause nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhoea and skin irritation.”

CWOTUS's avatar

I get even lazier than you – sometimes! – regarding the burritos: I have a box of frozen ones for when I’m especially lazy, though I do more often than not (when I want a burrito) make them from what passes for “scratch”.

But I hand-shred a brick of three-year-old extra-sharp cheddar (which may age for another few months in the bottom of my refrigerator from the day I open it until the day I finish it) on top of that. And homemade tzatziki sauce on top of all that. For a lazy guy, making tzatziki week in and week out is a chore. But worth the effort. Maybe someday I’ll even make my own salsa again.

But without even reading the ingredients on the bag, I’ve always been put off by pre-packaged shredded cheese with that powdery stuff that’s evident on it, and its unnatural dryness and stiffness. Bleah.

Glad to hear that you’ve overcome that, anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it’s the natamycin. You have a reaction to it, while most people don’t.

The test would be to eat something else with it and see if it makes you sick. It would be used in things like shredded and sliced cheeses, some cream cheeses, yogurt, sour cream too. All those soft type cheeses are a possibility, or cheeses with lots of edges. You would have to read the labels though. Other agents are used besides that drug to inhibit mold growth.

I just read the Kraft American cheeses slices in my fridge and the drug is in the ingredients, so I’d bet its in other Kraft products too if American cheese isn’t of any interest to you.

Bring your reading glasses to the supermarket, and let us know how the experiment goes. There is a possibility the brand you use has a higher dose of it, and a lower dose might not effect you, which would screw up your test results.

Also, I just googled and the drug can be under the names Primaracin and Natacin too.

Meanwhile, I thank you for this Q, because my husband and I are always trying to figure out what might cause him heartburn. His comes and goes. He might have it for weeks straight and then not for months. You gave me another ingredient to think about.

johnpowell's avatar

I sent this question to Tillamook and got a response this morning.

Hi John,

Thanks for your email. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having some trouble with our shredded cheese. I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing heartburn or other illness due to Natamycin or potato starch, but I will certainly pass along your concerns to our team. We do use a very small amount of Natamycin in our shredded cheese as a natural way to keep our cheese fresh and prevent mold. Natamycin has been used safely for decades in the dairy industry to prevent mold and enables us not to use artificial preservatives. A light dusting of potato starch is also used in our shredded cheese to prevent the cheese from clumping and melding back together. It is a natural ingredient and is an alternative to cellulose powder. I don’t know of any plans to remove these ingredients from our shredded cheese but we will certainly keep an eye out for similar comments and as I mentioned already, I’ll forward this information to our Product Development and Quality Assurance teams. Thanks for reaching out.

I checked the cheese I have that doesn’t give me problems and it has the same ingredients. But they could be using the same “type” of thing made differently. Or quantities or something. With the Tillamook shredded cheese there is a visible white powder on it but I don’t see the same thing on the generic Safeway cheese.

snowberry's avatar

If you can find it, try organic shredded cheese. It might have different ingredients.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, if the other cheese you eat has the drug and you’re fine, then that probably isn’t the culprit.

I asked my husband if he got heartburn when he ate the American cheese yesterday and he said no. So, his is still a mystery.

Edit: if you eat the burrito without the cheese how do you feel?

CWOTUS's avatar

Deprived! Empty! Unfulfilled! Depressed! Suicidal!

My god, who would eat a burrito without shredded cheese? I mean, what’s the point in living if you’re going to do that kind of thing?

snowberry's avatar

I’m allergic to dairy. So no cheese of any kind for me. If I eat a burrito it’ll be without cheese. :(

johnpowell's avatar

It is only the Tillamook shredded cheese that hurts me. The Safeway cheese isn’t as good but it doesn’t hurt.

And the idea of a burrito without cheese is horrifying. I would rather top myself.

JLeslie's avatar


Maybe try Kraft or Sargento? I think their shredded “Mexican” cheeses by Kraft are very good. Like I said Kraft does use that drug also, but that doesn’t seem to be the trouble.

johnpowell's avatar

Here is the funny thing. I used to just shred my own… Then the manicotti indecent happened. I shredded off about a quarter of my thumbnail and solid chunk of flesh. So much blood… Really, a lot of blood. And I had been drinking all day so my blood was thin. I’m pretty sure there is still blood in the kitchen from that mishap. The blood was everywhere.

So I have given up on shredding my own.

Perhaps I should just buy a Cuisinart.

Did I mention there was a fuckton of blood?

snowberry's avatar

@johnpowell John stop shredding cheese and using sharp instruments when you’re drunk! If you want shredded cheese shred it while you’re sober! You could even do it a day or so ahead of time and put it in an airtight container back in the refrigerator. Then open the beer!

Problem solved!

JLeslie's avatar

Lol. Fingers bleed a lot. You have to hold your hand above your heart while you apply pressure. Or, lie down if that gets tiresome, and rest your hand in your chest while you apply pressure. It can easily take over 30 minutes to completely stop.

Shredding cheese is a pain, I almost never do it.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Get a hand crank Cheese Grater I’ve got the one my mom used in the 1950’s somewhere in the house.

kritiper's avatar

Oohh. Glad I got that out…

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