It may be a helluva lot more expensive, but buying a block of pure Parmesan cheese has always been my go-to purchase rather than buying that crumbly shit some companies label as “100% Parmesan cheese.” The cheap-o versions of parmesan generally taste and look like sawdust, but while y’all have been gobblin’ that shit down like the end of the world is night the FDA has been grinding away, investigating whether the pre-grated Parmesan cheese is actually Parmesan.
Turns out, it’s not.
According to the FDA’s findings, many products that claim to be “100% Parmesan cheese” are actually littered with cheap fillers, including cheddar and cellulose – yes, cellulose – aka the anti-clumping agent that comes from wood pulp. While it’s technically a safe filler to be added to food, cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research, Dean Sommer, says that an acceptable level ranges from 2-4%. So how did your favorite Parmesan knock-offs weigh in? Bloomberg News had store-bought Parmesan tested to find out:
Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent, according to test results. Whole Foods 365 brand didn’t list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3 percent. Kraft had 3.8 percent.(via)
That doesn’t sound so bad, right? I can have 8% of my diet dedicated to eating wood and I probably won’t die. Might take some dinosaur-sized shits with all that extra fiber coming my way, but who complains about being TOO regular?
Unfortunately for some, there’s yet another manufacturer of crappy American Parmesan cheese that was investigated by the FDA, and the findings weren’t pretty:
According to the FDA’s report on Castle, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” the Market Pantry brand 100% grated Parmesan Cheese, sold at Target Corp. stores, and Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese and Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, sold by Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., which along with its subsidiaries supplies 3,400 retail stores in 30 states. Instead, there was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose, according to the FDA.(via)
At the same time, if you’re buying un-refrigerated cheese from Target your standards shouldn’t be that high. That’s like going to Walmart and complaining that all the cheap plastic shit you bought a week prior broke within 10 seconds of being used. As if your off-brand “Jamsung” television was going to be capable of playing anything besides VHS’ from 1995 anyway.
So how do you avoid buying cheap shitty Parmesan? Just read the label, god forbid – or buy your cheese in blocks rather than pre-grated containers.