Your Parmesan cheese could contain wood pulp

Posted at 11:28 AM, Feb 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 11:28:31-05

The Parmesan cheese many of you sprinkle on your pasta, might actually be wood pulp.

An investigation by the Federal Government discovered what was supposed to be 100% Parmesan cheese was actually wood pulp.

Package labels claim Parmesan is 100% cheese, but an independent study by Bloomberg Business uncovered some companies have been adding cellulose-- a common food additive made from wood pulp to their cheese.

For example, Walmart's Great Value 100% Parmesan cheese had 7.8% cellulose. 3.8% cellulose was found in Kraft Parmesan cheese according to Bloomberg Business.

The study also found cellulose in cheese from Whole Foods and Jewel Osco.

In many cases, Parmesan suppliers would either use cheap cheddar cheese instead of real Romano, and then fill the product with too much cellulose.

The FDA targeted a company called Castle Cheese back in 2012 which also labeled its Parmesan as 100% cheese.

Cheese from Castle was used in Target's Market Pantry Brand.

The FDA learned Castle Cheese wasn't making real Parmesan, but rather its product was a blend of other cheaper cheeses and cellulose.

Experts say if the cheese we sprinkle on pizza and pasta isn't the real Parmesan, then the labels need to reflect that.

A professor from Michigan State University tells us, Food Fraud is a real problem.

John Spink Ph.D of Michigan State University, who heads up the university’s Food Fraud Initiative, says a key with food fraud is criminals are looking to make money. They are looking to cheat and deceive consumers. They are trying to cut corners to make money.

And its not just cheese. There have been reports of olive oil not being the real thing, fish, and even lobster fraud.

Walmart is questioning the reliability of testing of its Great Value cheese-- Kraft issued a statement saying it stands by its cheese products.

Whole foods says it too thinks the study could have been a false positive, but it is conducting its own investigation.

Target says Castle Cheese was not an authorized vendor, but it too is investigating.

Castle Cheese filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

Cellulose is approved as a safe additive by the government in certain doses.

The FDA allows up to 4% filler products like cellulose in cheese.

Cellulose is used by companies to give texture to the product.