It’s a fact that Parmesan cheese has the magical ability to improve any dish. But what if your 100 percent, dry-aged Parmesan cheese was actually diluted with fillers like wood pulp?
According to the FDA and a recent study by Bloomberg News, fillers like wood pulp are more common in store-bought Parmesan cheese than you might think. The study revealed that each of the tested store brands contained cellulose, an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp.
Cellulose is a safe additive and an acceptable percentage to be found in cheese is two to four percent, according to FDA standards. However, test results from Bloomberg found that that relatively low percentage was rarely the case in popular store brands. Essential Everyday 100 percent Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, registered at 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart’s Great Value 100 Percent Grated Parmesan Cheese was 7.8 percent cellulose.
In response, a Wal-Mart representative maintained that it “Remain[s] committed to the quality” of its products, and will be “looking into” the matter. A Whole Foods representative, meanwhile, maintained that there is zero cellulose present in its cheese, but will be “investigating” nonetheless.
“The tipping point was grated cheese, where less than 40 percent of the product was actually a cheese product,” Neil Schuman, the biggest seller of hard Italian cheeses in the U.S., told Bloomberg. “Consumers are innocent, and they’re not getting what they bargained for. And that’s just wrong.”
The FDA is already investigating one cheese brand, Castle Cheese Inc., which after extensive testing, was found to be doctoring its 100 percent real Parmesan with substitutes and fillers like the cellulose wood pulp.