What Is That In My Cream Cheese?

Out and about during my regular outings with my one and two year old, we are known to pick up a toasted blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese and/or a toasted sesame bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese at our favourite coffee shop.  I justify the bagel as part of their diets for their need for fat and calcium accompanied by the filling bagel.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Recently, out of consideration of the funds running low in my entertainment budget for this month, I decided I would pick up some bagels and cream cheese from the grocery store.  A  good friend of mine had expressed her disappointment in all of the additives in sour cream so she purchases Bulkan Style plain yogurt to use as sour cream.  It tastes so similar, I completely understand and it has only natural looking ingredients in it.  Armed with my friend’s wisdom, I decided I would examine what exactly is in my spreadable cream cheese.

Here we go:  Skim Milk Powder, salt, guar gum, propylene glycol alginate, carrageenan, locust bean gum, potassium sorbate, bacterial cultures.

As I read through the ingredients, I was stunned to read propylene glycol alginate, as the fourth ingredient.  Now, I am not a chemist, just a consumer using my layman knowledge to make the best decisions I can for my family.  My layman knowledge is aware that propylene glycol is antifreeze.

Wikipedia has helped me to learn that propylene glycol is used:

  • As an ingredient in the oil dispersant Corexit
  • To deice aircraft wings and empennage
  • As a solvent in many pharmaceuticals, including oral, injectable and topical formulations (notably, diazepam, which is insoluble in water, uses propylene glycol as its solvent in its clinical, injectable form])
  • As a humectant food additive, labeled as E number E1520
  • As an emulsification agent in Angostura and orange bitters
  • As a moisturizer in medicines, cosmetics, food, toothpaste, shampoo, mouth wash, hair care and tobacco products
  • As a carrier in fragrance oil
  • To produce polyester compounds
  • As a base in deicing solution
  • As an ingredient in massage oils
  • In hand sanitizers, antibacterial lotions, and saline solutions
  • In smoke machines to make artificial smoke for use in firefighters’ training and theatrical productions (Not recommended by Dow Chemical)
  • In electronic cigarettes, as a vaporizable base for diluting the nicotine liquid
  • As a solvent for food colors and flavorings
  • As an ingredient, along with wax and gelatin, in the production of paintballs
  • As a moisture stabilizer (humectant) for snus (Swedish style snuff)
  • As a cooling agent for beer and wine glycol jacketed fermentation tanks
  • As a nontoxic antifreeze for winterizing drinking water systems (for example recreational vehicles), and in applications where the used antifreeze eventually will be drained into the soil, water, or a septic system
  • As a less-toxic antifreeze in solar water heating systems
  • As a solvent used in mixing photographic chemicals, such as film developers
  • In cryonics
  • As a working fluid in hydraulic presses
  • As a coolant in liquid cooling systems
  • To regulate humidity in a cigar humidor
  • As the killing and preserving agent in pitfall traps, usually used to capture ground beetles
  • As an additive to pipe tobacco to prevent dehydration
  • To treat livestock ketosis
  • As the main ingredient in deodorant sticks
  • As an ingredient in UV or blacklight tattoo ink
  • As a lubricant in air conditioning compressors
  • As a wetting agent, used to determine drying time in paints and coatings
  • Used in the beverage mixer Sweet N Sour
  • Used in electronic cigarettes

It appears my perceived “unusual ingredient” in my cream cheese is a “usual” ingredient in so many products that unknowingly, I do receive a regular dose of propylene glycol.  The Straight Dope shares his input on propylene glycol alginate and humoressly recommends it for consumption after a nuclear fallout.

With this knowledge, do I just trust that it is not a risk to me or my family?  Like all parents, we’re trying to do what we believe is best for our family.  I would love to know I was giving my children healthy, chemical free food daily but it actually feels next to impossible.  When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, I often feel like I need to just not think about it when considering what might be on my fruit or vegetable, I trust the government is monitoring, just wash it off and serve.  Organic fruits have only a brief state or freshness at our grocery store and the farmers markets don’t give me any reassurance that they haven’t been treated chemically.

When it comes to the cream cheese, I don’t feel comfortable feeding it to my family.  A lesson learned.  I contacted head office of our favourite bagel stop and have verified the ingredients they have in their cream cheese and I am happy to share they do not have propylene glycol.

Have you ever discovered an ingredient in a product you purchased that you just couldn’t bring yourself to consume?


4 thoughts on “What Is That In My Cream Cheese?

  1. Well that just turned me off cream cheese. I forget where I heard this quote but it basically goes, if you can’t pronounce it, then don’t buy it. Who knew deodorant and cream cheese shared the same ingredients.

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