Have you ever walked through a grocery store and seen a bottle of “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese”?
Maybe you buy it regularly to add some flavor to your pasta. It turns out that many cheese products, including popular brands of parmesan and shredded cheese, are actually not 100% composed of cheese. For decades food manufacturers have used cellulose filling from wood pulp to prevent grated cheese from clumping.
Cellulose is a fiber that makes people feel more full. It has no nutritional value but isn’t harmful either. To cut costs, manufacturers use the ingredient to make goods that contain less cheese but are still filling.
In 2016 concerned consumers and authentic cheese lovers decided they were tired of being misled and shortchanged. On the basis of financial injury, they sued several major corporations, including Kraft, Target and Wal-Mart. This group of citizens claimed the brands were deceiving buyers and violating state consumer protection statutes.
About a year later a federal judge, Gary Feinerman, dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning it could be reopened. Feinerman said the plaintiffs’ claims were doomed “by the readily accessible ingredient panels on the products that disclose the presence of non-cheese ingredients,” according to a Reuters report. “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese,” Feinerman said, did not necessarily imply that the product contained 100% cheese. The messaging could be claiming that 100% of the content was grated. While the judge admitted the language was ambiguous and had multiple interpretations, he did not rule in favor of the consumers.
Still, consumers did learn some valuable lessons. When it comes to evaluating the quality and integrity of food products, always trust the back more than the front. After all, brand slogans and eye-catching colors are what stands out on shelves, and people are too busy to research every item they purchase at a grocery store.
If you want cheese that is truly 100%, for now it might best best to search for authentic manufacturers, buy whole pieces of cheese and do the grating yourself. This choice also saves trees from being ground into wood pulp.
A Note on Our Parmesan Cheese: Our grated parmesan contains about 3% cellulose to prevent clumping and preserve flavor.
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