There are a few things that go hand-in-hand. Coffee + creamer, ice cream + brownies, pizza + parmesan to name a few. Nothing tops off a piping hot slice of pizza better than a sprinkle of crumbly and delicious parmesan cheese TBH (hopefully you scored some on cheese day at Whole Foods) 鈥 but what if we told you there鈥檚 a possibility that bottle of what you thought was a savory hard cheese is in fact mostly the innards of a tree? Pizza + wood pulp = NOT a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, according to a new Bloomberg report, that鈥檚 exactly what the FDA found to be the case when they cracked down on a Pennsylvania cheese factory back in 2012.

Grated Parmesan Cheese

What FDA found was Castle Cheese Inc. was using way too much cellulose, an additive used to prevent clumping, in their supposed 100 percent grated parm along with many other cheap substitutes. Based off the estimation of Arthur Schuman, whose company Arthur Schuman Inc. is 鈥渢he biggest seller of hard Italian cheeses in the U.S., with 33 percent of the domestic market鈥 and a long-time advocate for labeling transparency, about 20 percent of the U.S. grated parmesan cheese bottles are mislabeled.

According to Bloomberg鈥檚 reporting, cellulose is safe, but shouldn鈥檛 comprise of more than two to four percent of the product to ensure purity. Bloomberg News even had a range of grated parmesan product tested by an independent lab. Several brands, especially bargain brand stores, contained more than the recommended amount of cellulose in their product. In some cases, it was double the maximum amount.


As for Castle Cheese, the company raided by the FDA, the reports for their Market Pantry Brand 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese and Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese came back saying 鈥渘o parmesan cheese was used to manufacture鈥 any of their products. Instead, the tests showed that 鈥渢here was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose, according to the FDA.鈥 Their president Michelle Myrter is pleading guilty this month to criminal charges and 鈥渇aces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.鈥 Eek!

How is this even allowed? you might be asking as you stare down sadly at your naked slices of pizza. Simply because cellulose isn鈥檛 a health hazard really and John Spink, director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University tells Bloomberg, 鈥渢he FDA, which enforces the country鈥檚 food laws, prioritizes health hazards.鈥

Do better, cheesemakers. Our pizzas deserve the very best.

What do you think the FDA should do about this? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(h/t Bloomberg, photo via Getty)