Feb 21 2016

What do Parmesan Cheese and Wood Pulp have in common?

Published by at 1:44 pm under Food Additives

We want to add fiber to our diets, but this is ridiculous!
Wood pulp found in parmesan cheese reveals deceptive practices of food manufacturers.


There have been some startling revelations when it comes to parmesan cheese lately. Many products touting 100% Real Parmesan, actually contain no parmesan at all. Most of the parmesan cheese on the market actually contains high percentages of cellulose, also known as “wood pulp”. As consumers we trust that what a product’s label says is true, but we are finding that labels are used more as a tool for marketing a product, rather than its intended purpose — to provide the consumer with accurate information as to what a product contains so we can make conscious decisions about what we want to put in our bodies.1*

Cellulose is found in fresh vegetables and is a natural dietary fiber that has benefits for the digestive tract. Your body doesn’t have the enzymes to digest cellulose, so the sugar in it is not burned for energy like other carbohydrates. As it travels through the digestive tract, this non soluble fiber absorbs water, which adds bulk and moisture to your stool, which helps prevent constipation and is important for preventing diverticulitis. But that is when you eat whole vegetables and get this component naturally. In fact, friendly bacteria benefit from insoluble fiber, as it is a great food source for them. It is often extracted from plants, including tree bark, and has become a popular additive to many foods to prevent clumping.4*

The larger problem here is the blatant misleading of a trusting public. The FDA, who is “…responsible for the safety and security of most of our nation’s food supply…” is looking into this practice. This investigation first came to light in 2012 when the FDA received an anonymous tip regarding Castle Cheese, Inc in Pennsylvania They conducted a surprise inspection which revealed some startling findings. They actually found out that “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” the Market Pantry brand 100 percent grated Parmesan Cheese, which had been sold at Target stores around the country or in Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese and Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese… both sold by Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc.. With its subsidiaries, this wholesale grocer supplies 3,400 retail stores in 30 states.  Instead of Parmesan Cheese, they found that it contained Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar cheese and cellulose, though the FDA didn’t release the exact percentage of cellulose in the Castle Cheese parmesan. (1,2,3)*

According to Dean Sommer, a cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin, “…cellulose is a safe additive and acceptable at levels of 2 to 4 percent...” According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “…cellulose is a safe food additive used to improve texture, prevent sugar from crystallizing and thicken foods. You may experience side effects such as gas, bloating and diarrhea when you consume too much..” (2,4)*

Bloomberg News with the help of independent testers, conducted their own study on several brands of Parmesan Cheese. They found the following:

  • Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose;
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent;
  • 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.(2,3)*

“…In 2014, an anonymous cheese industry executive told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that some grated Parmesan cheese contains 20 percent or more cellulose…”1*

The different companies have responded to these allegations saying they are looking into these claims to “ensure the quality of their products…”1*

So how could this be happening? According to John Spink, director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University, “…until recently, there was little incentive to follow labeling rules. Criminal cases are rare. That’s because the FDA, which enforces the country’s food laws, prioritizes health hazards…” …”The FDA is now cracking down in a serious way on this practice. In the past, it hadn’t criminally prosecuted mislabeling cases because of the focus on food safety, but that has changed over the past year..”(1,2,3) *

Who is going to take accountability for these practices? For one, Castle Cheese went bankrupt after these findings, and Castle President, Michelle Myrter, is scheduled to plead guilty to criminal charges. She could be looking at up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.3*

Despite these fraudulent practices of food companies in whom we have placed our trust, there doesn’t seem to be any direct threat to public health as a result. But it does once more put emphasis on the importance of focusing your diet away from processed foods and towards whole foods so that you know what you are eating. If you want to eat wood, then that should be your choice, not the choice of some large company trying to make an extra buck off the back of trusting consumers! It is hard enough to eat a truly healthful diet of organic whole foods every day. But when we are attempting to eat what we believe to be whole, 100% pure foods, we are depending on the food manufacturers to be truthful. The surest way to protect yourself is to focus on fresh produce and meats from local organic farmers. Farmer’s markets, organic grocers and even your own garden are the first place to turn when available. Parmesan cheese should be bought in blocks and grated by hand to make sure you are getting the real thing. Taking care of your gut by feeding it these foods will make for a healthy lifestyle for years to come. Supplementing, as always with a daily dose of friendly bacteria in the form of BODY BIOTICS™ BIO IDENTICAL SBO PROBIOTICS CONSORTIA™ is a key element in keeping your body’s defenses strong and ensuring that despite the additives, preservatives and other chemicals in our food supply and environment, we are building our bodies’ defenses from the inside out.

Healthiest wishes,







  1. http://www.sciencealert.com/your-parmesan-cheese-could-contain-more-wood-pulp-than-parmesan-studies-suggest
  2. http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm192695.htm
  3. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/the-parmesan-cheese-you-sprinkle-on-your-penne-could-be-wood
  4. http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm

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