Cheese aficionados, brace yourself for the upsetting news to come. If parmesan is on your list of favorites, you may want to reconsider it, or at least be very selective with brands moving forward. Turns out that what you thought you've been eating may actually be filled with cheaper substitutes like white cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, or worse — wood pulp.
According to Bloomberg Business, the FDA visited Castle Cheese Inc. in 2012 based on a tip and discovered some unsettling evidence. The Pennsylvania cheese factory, which supplies grated cheese to Target's Market Pantry brand and Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., has been claiming to have a product with 100 percent real parmesan when in fact "no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture."
Suppliers have been skimping customers on promised quality because it's simply cheaper. A subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America has also stated that of 28 tested brands, only one-third of labels are actually correct due to the excessive addition of cellulose, which comes from wood pulp and helps prevent clumping. Although cellulose is safe at two to four percent, grated parmesan products distributed in large grocery chains hold more than the acceptable amount. The following results were found by a cheese technologist cited by Bloomberg:
Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent, according to test results. Whole Foods 365 brand didn't list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3 percent. Kraft had 3.8 percent.
The brands above are currently looking into the matter. It wasn't until recently that the FDA started to crack down on this case of mislabeling, since its priority has always been investigating health hazards. But it looks like the agency is onto cheese companies and will continue to keep a close eye. The president of Castle Cheese may even be facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
If it feels like your whole life has been a lie, you're not alone. We won't blame you for having trust issues at this point. Weigh in with your thoughts here.