Kraft is recalling cheese slices because they’re a choking hazard

Single, but not so ready to mingle.
Single, but not so ready to mingle.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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It’s a bad day for one cheese-like substance.

The Kraft Heinz Company is recalling 36,000 cases of its individually wrapped cheese products, called Singles, in response to consumer complaints about the wrapper, a piece of which could stick to slices after removal. The defect caused three reported incidents of choking, according to the company.

The recall extends to 3- and 4-lb. sizes of Kraft Singles American and White American cheese products shipped to retailers in the US, Puerto Rico, and Grand Cayman. The defective products can be identified by looking at the “best when used by” dates, followed by manufacturing codes. Any Singles dated December 29, 2015 through January 4, 2016, followed by manufacturing codes S54 or S55, are subject to the recall.

Such far-off-into-the-future usage dates are possible because Kraft Singles aren’t technically cheese. They were specifically developed with the purpose of having a shelf-life much longer than standard cheese. As recounted in Pandora’s Lunchbox by Melanie Warner, company founder James Lewis Kraft invented what we now know as American cheese by killing the mold-causing bacteria in cheddar cheese through sterilization and then putting the pieces back together again in a cheese-like form. (Read the 1916 patent here.) The exact formula has changed over the years, but because it still does not meet the FDA’s standard of identity for cheese—which calls for at least 51% cheese in any processed cheese food—it can’t call itself “cheese.” But it can last a really, really long time.