Fresh, slighly salty panela cheese is a common ingredient in enchiladas, tacos, stuffed chiles and more. Now, investigators at the federal consumer protection agency Profeco have uncovered misleading labeling by some common panela brands and even an imitation mascarading as the real thing.
For the study, Profeco analyzed 30 products including standard, low-fat and lactose-free panela as well as several imitation brands. They analyzed fat and protein content and the origin of ingredients to make sure that “100% milk” cheeses were living up to their name, and checked that product labels were accurate.
They found that one cheese in particular was duping customers: Franja panela, a “panela-style cheese,” did not legally qualify as cheese due to artificial ingredients, including partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. While the Sam’s Club label of Franja indicated that it was an imitation, in Chedraui it was sold in bulk without appropriate labeling and could easily be mistaken for real cheese.
The imitation panela brand Los Pioneros de la V del Mu was dinged for a misleading label depicting a cow, though the product was not 100% dairy. Similarly, Alpino imitation panela was deceptively labeled, with the word “panela” printed larger than the word “imitation,” the study found.
The Zwan and Carranco brands were found to contain up to almost 10% less cheese than stated on their packaging. And perhaps most worryingly, Panela Aguascalientes, Great Value low-fat panela and Los Pioneros de la V del Mu imitation panela all contained elevated levels of microorganisms, indicating that they were not properly refrigerated during transport.
Several of the offending cheeses were ordered off the market until their labels are corrected.
In general, Profeco recommended that panela consumers read their cheese labels and check the expiration date, drain the water after opening (like mozarella) to prevent bacterial growth and keep the product refrigerated.
Mexico News Daily