Imagine a night out at a cozy, Italian restaurant. You’re looking over the menu and trying to make a tough decision between the eggplant Parmesan and and some classic cheese tortellini. You make a last minute decision to go with the chicken Alfredo, and when the waiter sets your plate in front of you 20 minutes later, he kindly asks if you’d like some Parmesan cheese to top off your dish.
Now, imagine a giant wood chipper in place of the cheese grater, and suddenly tiny pieces of wood are flowing out of the waiter’s hands and on top of your creamy chicken Alfredo. Might just ruin your dinner, right? While this scenario may be a bit dramatic, the FDA has in fact found alarming amounts of wood pulp in grated Parmesan cheese on grocery store shelves.
It gets worse: some brands promising 100% purity contained NO Parmesan cheese at all. The FDA, reportedly acting on a tip, paid a surprise visit to a cheese factory in rural Pennsylvania to find that Castle Cheese Inc. was altering its “100% real Parmesan” with substitutes and fillers such as wood pulp, and distributing the cheese to some of America’s biggest food chains.
According to Bloomburg Business, the FDA found that there are other grated Parmesan and Romano suppliers that have been mislabeling products by filling them with too much cellulose, a common anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp. Some are also using cheaper cheddar cheese in the mix.