That '100% pure' Parmesan Cheese you're enjoying may contain wood pulp

Who cut the cheese? FDA inspectors investigating that very question raided a popular parmesan cheese supplier, and discovered they had indeed been cutting the cheese liberally with wood pulp.

Castle Cheese Inc. supplies large grocery chains throughout the country. And they're the first to get busted. Other parmesan cheese suppliers promising "100% purity" are selling a product that literally contains no parmesan cheese at all.

"Some grated Parmesan suppliers have been mislabeling products by filling them with too much cellulose, a common anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp, or using cheaper cheddar, instead of real Romano," reports Lydia Mulvany at Bloomberg.

"Someone had to pay. Castle President Michelle Myrter is scheduled to plead guilty this month to criminal charges. She faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine."

Bloomberg illustration by Steph Davidson

Bloomberg illustration by Steph Davidson

From the Bloomberg exposé:

How serious is the problem? Bloomberg News had store-bought grated cheese tested for wood-pulp content by an independent laboratory.

Cellulose is a safe additive, and an acceptable level is 2 percent to 4 percent, according to Dean Sommer, a cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin. 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 Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood" [bloomberg, photo above: Shutterstock]