Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano is considered one of the world's top cheeses by cheese connoisseurs. It is is mostly grated salads, over pastas, used in soups and risottos. It is also eaten on its own as a snack. Canadians like it very much, we import $10 million worth of grated or powdered Parmesan cheese products annually.
Some American cheese manufacturers have been using wood pulp — its technical name is “cellulose” - to increase the products bulk and weight has put it's wholesome reputation at risk.
The US Food and Drug Administration investigated the Pennsylvania cheese factory Castle Cheese Inc and found the company was doctoring its “100% real parmesan” with filler ingredients like wood pulp, or cheaper cheeses like cheddar, swiss and mozzarella.
An investigative report from Bloomberg news has revealed that the practice of using wood filler is not uncommon stating that "Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8% cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8%, according to test results. Whole Foods 365 brand didn’t list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3%. Kraft had 3.8%.”
Apparently unlike aardvarks, humans don’t have the ability to digest the wood pulp but it is considered safe for consumption in certain quantities. An acceptable level is believed to be between two to three per cent.
It is not the first time food safety has been questioned as producers substitute other products and try and pass them off as the genuine thing. Horse meat has been found in mince meat in products ranging from from burgers to frozen lasagna.
I'll stick to popcorn, whole wheat bread and my Red River cereal for my fiber needs.
The idea of spreading wood chips on my Caesar Salad or in my soups is whole unappetizing.
Must check out that big container of shredded parmesan from the Cost-Co up in our refrigerator to see if it has cellulose in it.