The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Rennet or Lipase in Black Diamond® Cheese?

Posted on January 01, 2018 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

We received an email inquiry from Tom about the Black Diamond Mature Reserve Cheddar Aged 4 Years Premium Sharp Cheddar Crafted in Canada that he had purchased in Maryland. Tom wrote:

“I’m hoping you can help me find an answer! I have been a vegetarian for 45 years, and finally found a cheddar cheese that I like. It says “enzymes” on the package…I can’t get a straight answer from Diamond in Canada (I called) or the number listed on the package of the American distributor…Their distributor in US told me when I called them that they thought that it probably was microbial… But they weren’t sure, because many of the cheeses that come from Canada are made with rennet. The person in Canada whom I talked with said that I would have to get information from the US distributor only. …Hope you can help. I’ve run up against a brick wall, and I bought 20 pounds of it!”

Note that there are many vegan cheeses now, so the easy and safe option is to purchase those. For example, see:

Tom sent us a photo of the cheese label which stated “Black Diamond is a trademark of Parmalat® Canada and distributed by Lactalis® American Group based in Buffalo, NY.”

On the contact request form itself that we sent in,, this FAQ appears:

“Is there any Rennet in Black Diamond Cheese Products? Most of our Black Diamond natural cheese products are made using microbial enzymes. Some of our products might contain rennet derived from calves when rennet is listed on the ingredient declaration found on the packaging.”

In November-December 2017 The VRG initially called Parmalat, the Canadian company which owns the Black Diamond brand. We were told hat since Black Diamond is not sold in Canada, they had no information on it. He instructed us to call Parmalat’s US distributor, Lactalis American Group.

We called Lactalis and were told that when “enzymes” is listed on the label of Black Diamond cheeses “the enzymes could be animal or microbial; we cannot guarantee one or the other.”

The VRG then asked if the UPC codes on the cheese could be tracked to the American plant where Tom’s cheese was packed and possibly we could know definitively which enzyme was used. It was indicated that the UPC codes could help uncover more information about the cheese making process.

In a second call, we then relayed three UPC codes. She typed them into her computer and said that the codes had not been found in her system. She then repeated what she had declared during our previous call: “The enzyme source in all Black Diamond cheeses could be animal or microbial; we cannot guarantee the source.”

VRG General Advice on Dairy Cheese Enzymes

Some cheeses that have “enzymes” on their label may contain animal rennet or animal lipase.

Only if “microbial” or “vegetarian” appears before “rennet” on the label can you be sure that animal rennet had not been used in the cheese making process.

But even then some consumers may be concerned that the so-called “vegetarian” enzymes originally began many microbial generations ago with animal genetic material that had been engineered into a microbial genome. See:

VRG readers may also enjoy many vegan cheese alternatives widely available today. See:

[Note: Read labels carefully. “Casein” and ingredients ending in “caseinate” are dairy-derived. Whey is also dairy-derived.]

Lipases may be included in the general word “enzymes” on cheese labels. When in doubt inquire of the manufacturer. See: for more information.

Incidentally, we asked if lipase was used in the Black Diamond cheddar cheese. Lipase may be used to enhance a cheese’s flavor. She informed us that she had no additional information on lipase itself. “Lipase is an enzyme and as I said before about enzymes, we cannot guarantee its source whether animal or microbial in Black Diamond cheeses.”

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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