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For legal purposes in the US, is cream cheese considered "cheese"?

Who regulates this and what definitions do they give?

If someone is contractually obligated to provide cheese and they provide cream cheese, is that acceptable under the law?

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The FDA promulgates regulations regarding what "cream cheese" etc. is, in 21 CFR Part 133 which covers cheese and related products. Cream cheese is described in §133.133, and there are sections on cottage cheese, cheddar, and so on. There is no general definition of "cheese" in this part, nor in related Part 131 covering milk and cream. Although there is no regulation defining the general term "cheese", by its regulatory inclusion with cottage cheese, cheddar and myriad other standard cheeses, one can argue that cream cheese is a kind of cheese (assuming there is no state regulation or contractual term that pins down what counts as "cheese"). By way of contrast, labne, often co-labeled "kefir cheese" (sometimes equated with "Greek yogurt"), is not included in any federal regulation, and at least one brand does not identify itself as a "type of yogurt", leaving the monolingual consumer with only "kefir cheese" to tell you what it is. Supplying labne as an instance of cheese would be in shaky legal ground, not so with cottage and cream cheese.

If a person is contracted to supply "cheese" with no further specification, they can rely on ordinary usage of the term, and the evidence of ordinary usage would include cream cheese as a kind of cheese. If someone were to supply labne as an instance of cheese, that would be more problematic.

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    If a person is contracted to supply "cheese" with no further specification, then whoever drafted that contract is completely clueless. – Kevin Sep 2 '18 at 19:40

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