Sunday 23 October 2016

You might be sprinkling wood over your pasta instead of Parmesan cheese...

Saffron Alexander

Published 20/02/2016 | 14:05

Saffron risotto with parmesan, sage and ham
Saffron risotto with parmesan, sage and ham

Hot on the heels of finding out that the salmon we're eating might not be what we think it is, a new scandal has rocked the food world.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that Parmesan fraud is on the rise after tests revealed that products described as '100 per cent Parmesan' are often enhanced with things such as cellulose - a byproduct of wood pulp - and cheaper products like cheddar, Swiss, and mozzarella cheese.

The FDA even went as far as to accuse some companies of selling '100 per cent Parmesan' products that don't actually contain any Parmesan at all.

The worst offender was 'Castle Cheese', who have been accused of knowingly supplying Parmesan that is not actually Parmesan at all to other retailers for 30 years. The allegation was made by a fired factory worker to the FDA.


The president of the company, Michelle Myrter, is now facing criminal charges and, if convicted, faces a year-long prison sentence and a $100,000 fine.

An investigation from Bloomberg News tested Parmesan cheese from various stores for cellulose content.

They found that "Essential Everyday 100 per cent Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100 per cent Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 per cent, according to test results.

"Whole Foods 365 brand didn’t list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3 per cent. Kraft had 3.8 per cent."

Pasta Pronto: Pasta with broccoli and chicken
Pasta Pronto: Pasta with broccoli and chicken

According to Dean Sommer, a cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research, an acceptable level of cellulose in our food is between two and four per cent.

A Kraft Heinz spokesman told Bloomberg: "We remain committed to the quality of our products," while WalMart questioned the reliability of the testing sample and said they would look into the findings.

Speaking to The Independent, WalMart spokesperson John Forrest Ales added: "We know earning customer trust starts with high standards, both inside the package and out. Our repeated testing of this item proves it meets federal regulations for its standard of identity.

"Even though using anti-caking aids is common across the industry and approved by the FDA, and testing a single sample is statistically unreliable, our compliance team is looking into these findings with the supplier. We never waiver on quality and will continue to ensure our product specifications are being met."

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