Fake Cheese: Execs Guilty, Admit Cheese Marketed as 100% Parmesan Do Not Contain Parmesan At All
Feb 29, 2016 06:00 AM EST | By Mark Jason Alcala
It's finally confirmed. People who have suspected that their "parmesan" cheese tasted something other than cheese are not paranoid at all. In fact, there is no real parmesan in it but other kinds of cheeses as well as wood pulp.
Michelle Myrter, an executive of the now-defunct two cheese companies Universal Cheese & Drying Inc. and International Packing LLC, who were accused of selling "real parmesan cheese" that contained wood pulp instead of parmesan, finally entered guilty pleas for herself and the companies last Friday.
Myrter was released by District Judge Mark Hornak on a personal recognizance bond after Myrter pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor criminal count in the Western District of Pennsylvania Court. According to the Food Safety News article, Myrter could face a one-year sentence or a $100,000 fine or both.
Michelle Myrter also entered guilty pleas on behalf of her two cheese companies to one count each of "conspiring to introduce misbranded and adulterated cheese products into interstate commerce and to commit money laundering."
Michelle is the daughter of Castle Cheese Inc co-CEO George Myrter who told FDA inspectors last November 2012 that he knew that the companies' cheeses were made with fillers. Acting on a tip from a fired plant manager, the FDA inspected a Castle Cheese facility. According to a geek.com article by Ryan Whitman, the FDA found that the "100% grated parmesan" cheese do not actually contain any parmesan component at all but is a mixture of swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose also known as wood pulp.
According to the same article, manufacturers usually resort to the use of a small amount of wood pulp or cellulose as a bulking agent. However, the FDA set a strict limit that the cellulose content must not exceed two percent of the total weight. Past offenders caught by FDA that introduced cellulose way much more than is allowed include Jewel-Osco at 8.8% as well as Wallmart's Great Value brand at 7.8 percent but they were still better because, at least, they were still mostly parmesan cheese.
To be safer for now, consumers are advised to buy block cheese and grate it as needed according to a CBS article by Mary Marcus.