When it comes to garnishing pasta, there’s really nothing better than some freshly grated parmesan cheese to top things off…except when it turns out that that dusting of cheese is more wood pulp than actual dairy.
That’s right, Bloomberg Business reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found evidence on a recent visit to Pennsylvania cheese factory, Castle Cheese Inc., of fillers in their reportedly 100% real parmesan cheese, which they then distributed to national chains such as Target and Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc..
It turns out that several Parmesan suppliers in the dairy industry have been using non-parmesan fillers in their products – cheaper cheeses (cheddar or swiss cheese trimmings) or an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp, known also as cellulose. While 2 percent to 4 percent is considered an acceptable level of cellulose, a safe additive, there are “100% parmesan”-marketed products that contain less than 40% actual cheese. In particular, three Castle Cheese brands have been brought to the public’s attention, for which “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” them: Market Pantry brand 100% grated Parmesan Cheese, Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, and Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese. While Castle Cheese Inc. is the factory that is currently under fire, a study done by a Dairy Farmers of America subsidiary tested 28 brands and found that only 1/3 of the reported protein levels (i.e. amounts of real cheese) were accurate.
Given this is a problem that pervades the dairy industry, it’s hard to know which brand is being honest with their marketing and their product. Keep an eye out for more developments and maybe throw out your grated parmesan cheese.