Typically, a person thinks that their food is real food, that it is all edible and nutritious, that it will help your body. At least, people want to think that, especially if the food is labeled “100% Pure.” Unfortunately, though, this is not always the case.
Take Parmesan cheese, for example. Your 100% pure Parmesan cheese may not be 100% pure. Lydia Mulvany writes,
“Acting on a tip, agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paid a surprise visit to a cheese factory in rural Pennsylvania on a cold November day in 2012.
“They found what they were looking for: evidence that Castle Cheese Inc. was doctoring its 100 percent real parmesan with cut-rate substitutes and such fillers as wood pulp and distributing it to some of the country’s biggest grocery chains.
“One might be tempted to think of this as a ripped-from-the-headlines episode of “NYPD Bleu,” except that the FDA wasn’t playing. Some grated Parmesan suppliers have been mislabeling products by filling them with too much cellulose, a common anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp, or using cheaper cheddar, instead of real Romano. Someone had to pay. Castle President Michelle Myrter is scheduled to plead guilty this month to criminal charges. She faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.”
If you think that this problem is limited to Castle Cheese Inc., think again. Mulvany continues,
“How serious is the problem? Bloomberg News had store-bought grated cheese tested for wood-pulp content by an independent laboratory.
“Cellulose is a safe additive, and an acceptable level is 2 percent to 4 percent, according to Dean Sommer, a cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin. 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.”
It should be noted that this kind of fraud in labeling is more likely to be found in hard Italian-style cheeses than in other cheeses because of the way these cheeses are produced. Essentially, the process produces less Parmesan cheese than cheddar cheese, for example, for the same amount of milk put into it.
Also, because the FDA prioritizes health scares over food labeling, going after fraudulently labelled food has not been a priority in the past. Consumers may want to assume that his lack of policing this issue may continue.
What it comes down to is that, when buying food, buyer beware. Know who you are buying from and that you can trust them because what you eat really does impact your physical health.