Few people realize that a national debate among the Board of Healthís top five nutritionists is occurring. The panel of five nutritionists is reconsidering the more commonsensical view that cream cheese is a cheese. Three of the five now contend that it may actually be a variant of sour cream. Professor Pat Palfrey is the most staunch member of the cream-with-some-cheese-in-it group, calling the traditional cheese-with-some-cream-in-it archaic and outdated. Palfrey goes as far as to say that the amount of cream, that is, whether itís regular, low-fat, or non-fat, makes no difference in determining its classification as cheese with cream or cream with cheese. "Even in very low-fat and non-fat cream cheeses," Palfrey says, "the percentage of fat in relation to total calories varies little, so we can still call it cream with cheese, rather than perhaps virtual cream with cheese, or cream with cheese without the cream, or cream cheese minus cream. Otherwise we would just call it cheese, and that would not reflect its true essence."

Dr. Joseph Stilton agrees but is more moderate, taking the stance that fat content does determine its classification, and even suggests different names depending on the fat content. For instance, low-fat cream cheese could be called whole-milk-with-cheese-in-it. The third member of the cream-with-some-cream-in-it group, Professor C. K. Ogletree, is somewhere between Palfrey and Stilton, acknowledging that fat content makes no difference in classification but would take into account the fat-to-calorie ratio, implying that carbohydrates may be a factor.

The two defenders of the traditional cheese-with-some-cream-in-it model say in different ways that the argument is irrelevant. Professor Dana Harvey says that the classification has nothing to do with customer satisfaction. "The cream cheese lover does not care what it is called or how it is classified. The traditional model works, why change it and confuse people? People may think the product is different and stop buying it if the classification changes, though it is exactly what it was before. We should be commonsensical. Metaphysics should not be involved here." Dr. Joanne Bruson, a licensed psychotherapist as well as professional nutritionist, favors a more nominalist approach than the others. "The classification of cream cheese is really dependent upon the consumer. Whichever classification furthers the consumerís sense of identity and self-actualization is the one that works. I donít believe we should be changing the traditional classification because I believe the classification is unnecessary."

Ultimately the question will be decided by a group of 100 nutritionists on the Board of Health -- by secret ballot. Professor Palfrey believes his view will prevail, and will push for a reclassification of bagels as soon as possible.