You’d think that products made in the United States have to have accurate labels, right?
Well, the FDA has issued a warning that the “100% real” cheese you feed your family may not be cheese at all.
Castle Cheese Inc., a beloved american cheese brand was discovered to have produced parmesan cheese containing no actual Parmesan for almost 30 years (1).
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.
Neil Schuman—who runs Arthur Shcuman Inc, the largest seller of hard Italian cheese in the U.S.—estimates that a whopping 20 percent of parmesan cheese sold in the United Sates is mislabeled (1).
Because parmesan cheese is more expensive to make than other cheeses, many inexpensive cheese brands bulk up their products with cellulose to make more profits.
Parmesan wheels are cured for months before they reach the right taste, texture and moisture content. While 100 pounds of milk might produce 10 pounds of cheddar, it makes only eight pounds of Parmesan (2).
Cellulose is a anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp that also adds weight to the cheese (2). It’s safe to say that it’s best to consume naturally-occurring cellulose in fruits and vegetables rather than chewing on wood by-products.
While cheese technologists at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin confirm the cellulose is a safe and accepted additive, it’s only supposed to make up 2-4% of the cheese. (2)
The problem is that many cheese companies do not disclose the use of cellulose in their products or use higher percentages than dairy production guidelines allow.
“The tipping point was grated cheese, where less than 40 percent of the product was actually a cheese product,” Schuman said.
“Consumers are innocent, and they’re not getting what they bargained for. And that’s just wrong.” (2)
The addition of cellulose also changes the nutritional value of these products. DairiConcepts, a Missouri-based cheese maker that’s a subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America, said on its website that in a test of 28 brands, only one-third of label claims about protein levels in grated parmesan were accurate (2).
And that’s not all, the FDA found no parmesan in cheese products labeled 100% grated Parmesan Cheese. Instead, they found swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose in these products, which were sold in 3,400 retail stores across 30 states (3).
How are consumers supposed to make health conscious decisions if the labels they trust aren’t telling the truth?