The Chemistry of American Cheese


Cheese is one of my favorite foods, but isn’t it almost everyone's? Processed cheeses are jam packed with preservatives, so how healthy are they for you? Do they even contain real cheese? I’ve heard many rumors about how terrible cheese is for your body, especially American Cheese, so I decided to research the chemistry of American Cheese. Turns out, American Cheese is not as harmful to the body as one would think, and lacks human made chemicals that are said to be hidden in highly processed foods.

  • Composition of ...
    • Milk
    • Calcium Phosphate
    • Sodium Citrate
    • Sorbic Acid
    • Vitamin A Palmitate
    • Annatto Extract
    • Salt
    • Gelatin
    • Lactic Acid

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

    • Calcium Phosphate- Ca3O8P
      • Calcium Phosphate is the main ingredient in human teeth and bones. Human bones are 70% Calcium Phosphate, and teeth are 90% Calcium Phosphate,
      • Calcium Phosphate is a combination of Calcium and Phosphorous.
      • There are a few different types of Calcium Phosphate. Hydroxyapatite is the type found in teeth and bones, while there are other uncommon types added to foods and vitamins to boost calcium intake.
      • Calcium Phosphate is not the most common calcium additive. Calcium Citrate and Calcium Carbonate are more commonly used.
    • Sorbic Acid- C6H8O2
      • Sorbic acid is a colorless solid that can dissolve in water.
      • It was originally extracted from unripe berries of rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia).
      • Sorbic Acid prevents growth of mold, yeast, and fungi in foods. For example, if sorbic acid was on a ham, it would not grow mold for more than 30 days!

Chemistry's Role

    • Calcium Phosphate
      • Calcium Phosphate is produced using calcium, phosphorus, and ammonia in a lab.
      • The calcium can be calcium carbonate (from animal bones), calcium hydroxide, or calcium nitrate from limestone (animal bones are most common in lab Calcium Phosphate production)
      • Calcium Phosphate can also be taken directly from minerals (not as common as lab produced)
        • The minerals that naturally contain Calcium Phosphate are oxyapatite, voelicherite, and whitlockite.
      • Calcium Phosphate also occurs naturally in milk and blood of cows.
    • Sorbic Acid
      • Sorbic Acid can be found from unripe berries of the rowan tree.
      • It can also be created in a lab from malonic acid and trans-butinal, which is more common than from berries from rowan trees.

Background Research

Processed cheese is eaten and enjoyed all around us from Kraft Singles, to Easy Cheese. Although American Cheese is indeed called “American Cheese”, the process is not originated in America. Originating in Switzerland, this cheese was created to eliminate cheese waste. It was made by blending scraps of cheese together to create a new product. In 1916 James Kraft, an American cheese entrepreneur, mastered a similar technique in the United States. This new product, titled American Cheese, became exceedingly popular because of its long shelf life and easy shipping ability. Today, Kraft is headquartered in Northfield, Illinois, where Kraft Singles are produced.


    • Process started in Switzerland in an effort to reduce cheese waste
      • Scraps of cheese were melted together to form a new product
    • 1916 American James Kraft patented the product in the US
    • Many historical facts

    • Less than 51% cheese
    • Explains why American cheese is not real cheese
    • Explains difference between cheese and “cheese food”

    • Lists ingredients
    • Nutritional facts

    • Contains detailed info on Calcium Phosphate (ingredient)
    • Actual Chemistry

    • Site explains the chemistry of milk (a main component of American Cheese)
    • Chemical structure of milk fat
    • Chemistry

    • Explains the origins of American Cheese
    • Labeling of American Cheese
    • Annatto added for coloring

    • Explains uses of Calcium Phosphate

    • Information on Sodium Citrate

    • Facts on Sorbic Acid

    • Contains information on how Calcium Phosphate is produced
    • Where calcium phosphate comes from

About the Author

Carrie Baker is a junior at Billings Senior High. She enjoys playing the clarinet, cheerleading, and playing with her beloved pet bunny, Bugz. Carrie also

enjoys spending time with friends and family. She plans on attending college near the west coast, and pursuing a career in oceanic or atmospheric