Parmesan cheese made of wood pulp or no cheese ingredients at all is shocking consumers. The list of stores and what they are really selling is indeed stunning, but it might also explain why your digestive system isn’t quite reacting to cheese as it should.
The FDA’s findings on Parmesan cheese made of wood pulp is actually topped by Target’s Market Pantry brand of 100% grated Parmesan Cheese which turns out contains no Parmesan at all. Bloomberg reports on February 16 that Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. and its 3,400 retail stores in 30 states is also not selling Parmesan but something else.
“No parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” Target’s Market Pantry 100% grated Parmesan Cheese or Associated Wholesale Grocers’ Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese and Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese. “Instead, there was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose, according to the FDA.”
Cellulose is a long chain of linked sugar molecules that gives wood its remarkable strength. It is the main component of plant cell walls. Because of its strength, cellulose is used to produce paperboard and paper – and Parmesan cheese.
Cellulose is being used as a filler and additive in cheeses and according to Dean Sommer, a cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin, it is “a safe additive, and an acceptable level is 2 percent to 4 percent.”
Below is a list of stores, their product, and how their Parmesan – wood pulp ingredients compared:
Target: Market Pantry 100% grated Parmesan Cheese — no Parmesan but a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose
Associated Wholesale Grocers: Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese and Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese — no parmesan but mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose
Jewel-Osco: Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese — 8.8 percent wood pulp (cellulose)
Walmart: Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese — 7.8 percent wood pulp (cellulose)
Whole Foods 365 brand: Cellulose is not listed as ingredient in their parmesan cheese but tests still showed 0.3 percent
Kraft Parmesan cheese: 3.8 percent cellulose
The independent lab that was hired by Bloomberg News to test the wood pulp content in store-bought grated Parmesan cheese did not test all cheeses. As such, consumers might be wondering if those products carrying the real “Italian Cheese” label have any less cellulose in them.
“Of all the popular cheeses in the U.S., the hard Italian varieties are the most likely to have fillers because of their expense. Parmesan wheels sit in curing rooms for months, losing moisture, which results in a smaller yield than other cheeses offer. While 100 pounds of milk might produce 10 pounds of cheddar, it makes only eight pounds of Parmesan. That two-pound difference means millions of dollars to manufacturers.”
The two-pound difference is being made up with cheaper wood pulp by American manufacturers. Italian producers have asked the European Union to protect the use of the names of their Italian cheeses and Italian flags from American manufacturers who are deceiving customers. In the U.S., manufacturers of Parmesan packages for pizza restaurants are also trying to stop the deception since some manufacturers who include cellulose instead of Parmesan can offer their product much cheaper than a manufacturer who produces Parmesan without cellulose.
The FDA, which regulates what can legally be called Parmesan or Romano, is trying to stop manufacturers who are trying to make a profit by selling consumers wool pulp instead of parmesan cheese.
“DairiConcepts, a Springfield, 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. The company blamed fillers such as cellulose.”
While some consumers might not mind a little wood pulp instead of cheese, it is noteworthy that humans lack the enzyme necessary to digest cellulose. While the small amount of cellulose found in vegetables and fruits passes through the human digestive system intact – and is regarded as healthy fiber – the unknown wood pulp in Parmesan might contribute to digesting too much fiber and can result in dehydration, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, loose stool or diarrhea, constipation and weight gain.