Filed Under:Claims, Investigative & Forensics

Parmesan cheese with too much wood pulled from grocery shelves

Industry experts estimate 20% of domestically-produced Parmesan cheese may be mislabeled, largely due to fillers like cellulose in grated products. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Industry experts estimate 20% of domestically-produced Parmesan cheese may be mislabeled, largely due to fillers like cellulose in grated products. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. supermarket chain Jewel-Osco removed all of its Essential Everyday 100% Parmesan Cheese from shelves amid concerns about the use of cellulose, a food additive made from wood.

The move follows a Bloomberg News investigation published Feb. 16 that revealed a canister of the grated cheese tested by an independent laboratory contained 8.8% cellulose. A level of as much as 4% is deemed acceptable to meet federal regulations for what can be labeled Parmesan.

Jewel-Osco recalled the product from all 185 stores on Wednesday, spokeswoman Mary Frances Trucco said in an e-mail Thursday. The company is phasing out the brand and replacing it with its Jewel-Osco Signature Brand.

“Our supplier of the Parmesan cheese is aware of the issue, and we look forward to learning more about their investigation,” she said. The company didn’t identify its supplier.

Industry experts estimate 20% of domestically-produced Parmesan cheese may be mislabeled, largely due to fillers like cellulose in grated products.

USDA inspection

Other retailers whose Parmesan was found in the same lab test to have more than 4% cellulose said they’re looking into the matter. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8%, while the Whole Foods 365 brand tested at 0.3% despite not listing cellulose as an ingredient on the label. The companies didn’t immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection of a cheese company in 2012, details of which were obtained by Bloomberg News through the Freedom of Information Act, said “no Parmesan cheese” was used in manufacturing Target Corp.’s Market Pantry brand 100% grated Parmesan Cheese, as well as Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc.’s Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese. The two companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

--With assistance from Bob Ivry.

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