If you think that products, which are manufactured in the United States have to have accurate labels – then we must tell you that you are definitely wrong. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that the 100% real cheese you give to your kids may not be cheese at all. The famous American cheese bran – Castle Cheese Inc. was discovered to have produced parmesan cheese containing no actual Parmesan for almost three decades. And the worst thing about this is that this is not the only case. Neil Schuman is the guy who runs Arthur Schuman, the largest seller of hard Italian cheese in the United States, estimates that 20% of parmesan cheese sold in the United Stated is mislabeled.
So, what’s the main reason for this – it’s probably because parmesan cheese is more expensive to make than other cheeses. This is why many inexpensive cheese brands bulk up their products with cellulose to make more profits. Well, the parmesan wheels are cured for months before they reach the right taste, texture and moisture content. Takes this for example – 100 lbs. of milk produce 10 lbs. of cheddar and it makes only 8 lbs. of parmesan.
As we said, the cheese manufacturers add cellulose, which is an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp that also adds weight to the cheese. So, we can also say that it’s the best to consume naturally-occurring cellulose in fruits and vegetables rather than chewing on wood by-products. A group of cheese technologists at the CDRM – Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin, have found that cellulose is a safe and accepted additive. But, it’s only supposed to make up 2-4% of the cheese. Well, the real problem is that many cheese companies don’t disclose the use of cellulose in their cheese products or use higher percentage than dairy production guidelines allow.
Schuman said that the real concern was the grated cheese, where less than 40% of the product was actually a cheese product. He says that all consumers are innocent and they’re not getting what they paid for. We can also mention that cellulose changes the nutritional value of these products. According to the DairiConcepts, a Missouri-based cheese maker said on its website that in a test of 28 brands, only 1/3 of label claims about protein levels in grated parmesan were accurate.
The Food and Drug Administration found no parmesan in cheese products labeled 100% grated Parmesan Cheese. The FDA found swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose in these products, which were sold in almost 3,500 store across United States.
How is this legal?
Well, to be honest with you – it isn’t. In Europe, Parmigiano-Reggian is allowed to have just 3 very simple ingredients:
- Milk – produced in the Parma region and less than 20 hours from cow to cheese
- Rennet – natural enzyme from calf intestine
Well, three other ingredients: cellulose, potassium sorbate and cheese cultures are found in American cheeses. These 3 ingredients are completely illegal in European production. American cheese doesn’t follow the same standard and have their own anglicized name – Parmesan. The Food and Drug Administration actually regulator what can legally be called Parmesan or Romano cheese according to a specific standard in place since the 1950s.
The FDA is researching claims and complaints in an attempt to ensure quality. But some brands trademark the name of their product or their claim to try to avoid persecution. Bloomberg reports that the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, a trade group based in Rome, asked the European Union in December to protect its manufacturers against U.S. companies. The manufacturers believe that the use of Italian flags and cheese names are deceitful to consumer and are undermining the perception of quality of true Italian products.
What brands are the worst offenders?
- Castle Cheese Inc.: 2-4 %
- Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese: 8.8%
- Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese: 7.8%
- Kraft parmesan: 3.8%
- Whole Foods 365 brand: 0.3 %
Note: the following results indicate cellulose content of popular brands that’s higher than what the FDA allows.
How to avoid fake parmesan?
First of all – don’t buy pre-shredded cheese. You should be careful when you buy face cheese products and always buy cheese directly from reputable artisanal cheese markers. You can buy these cheese products in farmer’s markets and specialty food shops. Or, just go to the Italian grocery and look for the Italian name and signature pin-prick patterns on the rind. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share with your friends and family.