Fat Free Half-and-half questions
March 24, 2007 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Is fat free half-and-half acutally half-and-half? Will it kill me?

My husband went to the store for half-and-half and came back with fat-free. Now, how exactly can half and half be fat free? By official definition, this should not actually be half and half. Am I missing something here? I read the ingredients and it still doesn’t make sense to me. How they get away with actually calling this half-and-half if it doesn’t have any fat in it?

I tasted this concoction and it seems to be about the right consistency and tastes just about like normal. Though the carton says this will work for baking or other applications, I am hesitant - do any of you have personal experience using it?
posted by Jenny is Crafty to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My husband did the exact same thing last year. I needed it for a quiche and the stores had closed so, with trepidation, I used it anyway. I was very surprised that the quiche tasted exactly the same. (But I still can't wrap my mind around how it can be half-and-half, either.)
posted by sfkiddo at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2007


I accidentally bought fat-free 'half and half' recently. Tasted okay, but the ingredients scared me. There were a number of strange additives and 'this ingredient not normally found in half and half' warnings on the label. From a health perspective, I feel safer with a little good old saturated fat.
posted by Zendogg at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2007


I don't see how it could be the same for cooking when the whole point of cooking with half and half is the fat. It some cases, such as acidic sauces, the fat prevents the sauces from curdling.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:39 PM on March 24, 2007


Sounds like it's not technically half-cream, half-milk by googling it.

Quoting the ingredient list: "Ingredients: Nonfat milk, milk*, corn syrup solids, artificial color**, sugar, dipotassium phosphate, sodium citrate, mono and diglycerides*, carageenan, natural and artifical flavors, vitamin A palmitate.

*Adds a trivial amount of fat

**An ingredient not normally found in half and half."

So if you were serious about it killing you, no, it won't. It's basically thickened nonfat milk. For cooking, you can check this faq here of Darigold brand, which I'm guessing other brands are similar.
posted by artifarce at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2007


I just tried it in an italian soda and the foam swelled and started jiggling like it was alive, and litterly pouring from the cup. I have not ever had that intense of a reaction with regular half-and half. It then separated into lumpy masses.
posted by Jenny is Crafty at 6:46 PM on March 24, 2007


By the official definition, no, it is not because it contains negligible milkfat. A more proper name would be "fat free half and half substitute." It's basically skim milk with corn syrup solids, artificial color, sugar, carageenan (a seaweed based emulsifier and thickener), and natural and artificial flavors added to simulate the missing cream. Apparently this labeling is not regulated, or perhaps just calling it fat free specifies it as a separate product. I've been told it works okay for baking but my rule is the words cream and non-fat do not coincide in anything I put in my mouth, and fat free half and half is a technical violation. Check those calories too.
posted by nanojath at 6:50 PM on March 24, 2007


Carageenan is also my favorite ingredient in those jugs of chocolate milk that are strangely creamier and thicker than homemade variety. The glycerides are emulsifiers. the phosphate and citrate are preservatives and buffers. Palmitate is added to lowfat milk to help replace vitamins. All of these are common in other foods, and often dairy products, and sure, of course won't be in something that doesn't need it.

As for the colorings, corn syrup, flavors, I'll leave that up to your particular brand of food ethics.
posted by artifarce at 6:51 PM on March 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just used it two nights ago in my favorite creamy wild-rice soup. It turned out 95% like usual. It looked like the half-n-half was breaking up oddly in the soup, but it didn't taste any different.
posted by GaelFC at 7:02 PM on March 24, 2007


I use it in my coffee all the time and have for a few years now. I like it because it's non-fat but lightens my coffee much better than plain ol' milk. I think it tastes very similar to regular half & half, but due to the less fat it has less calories and thus is easier to incorporate into my diet.

So, it won't kill you to use a carton of it - I've gone through many cartons and I'm still alive & kicking.
posted by tastybrains at 10:13 PM on March 24, 2007


You mention the FDA's "official definition," but whatever is in this stuff likely qualifies it as a "manufactured product" similar to margarine or non-dairy creamer, which means it's not regulated to the same standard.
posted by frogan at 10:17 PM on March 24, 2007


It sounds like low-fat milk mixed with non-dairy creamer.
posted by owhydididoit at 1:05 AM on March 25, 2007


"Natural Flavors" are usually MSG, for what it's worth. I'm highly allergic and have to shop carefully, so I've learned the hard way. It's probably not true 100% of the time, but I have yet to eat anything that says 'natural flavors' on the box without reacting to it.

Oddly, I don't remember ever having a problem with 'artificial flavors', so the labeling appears to be consistent across manufacturers. If you're trying to avoid MSG, artificial flavors seem to be ok.
posted by Malor at 3:28 AM on March 26, 2007


it is not considered illegal to call it half and half because it says "fat free half and half" on the package. they can get away with some shady stuff sometimes... Here's what the CFR says about half and half. I found this government paper that answers your question. In case you aren't interested in reading the food science nerdery in that link, here is the question and answer:
4. PMO-Sections 1 and 4 and Appendix L.

Is a milk product labeled "Fat Free Half-and-Half " properly labeled?

Yes. A milk product can be labeled "Fat Free Half-and-Half" provided it meets
the requirements of 21 CFR 131.180, 21 CFR 130.10, and 21 CFR 101.62. This would
be a food that uses a standardized name and a nutrient content claim per the
provisions in 21 CFR 130.10.
posted by catseatcheese at 4:10 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Natural Flavors" are usually MSG, for what it's worth. I'm highly allergic and have to shop carefully, so I've learned the hard way. It's probably not true 100% of the time, but I have yet to eat anything that says 'natural flavors' on the box without reacting to it.

Oddly, I don't remember ever having a problem with 'artificial flavors', so the labeling appears to be consistent across manufacturers. If you're trying to avoid MSG, artificial flavors seem to be ok.


If you read Chapter 5 of Fast Food Nation, you'll see that "natural" vs "artificial" doesn't mean much.
posted by radioamy at 9:37 AM on March 26, 2007


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