Parmesan Cheese With Too Much Wood Pulled From Store Shelves

  • Essential Everyday grated cheese removed from 185 stores
  • Move follows laboratory test showing high level of cellulose

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 percent cellulose. While federal regulations don’t specify a range, levels of 2 to 4 percent are enough to achieve anti-clumping effects the additive is used for, according to Dean Sommer, cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin.

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 percent of domestically produced Parmesan cheese may be mislabeled, largely due to fillers like cellulose in grated products.

USDA Inspection

Other retailers said they’re investigating the contents of their grated products. 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.

In the Bloomberg lab test, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent, while the Whole Foods 365 brand tested at 0.3 percent despite not listing cellulose as an ingredient on the label. Wal-Mart said it stands by its product. Repeated tests have shown the product meets federal regulations, spokesman John Forrest Ales said Thursday. Whole Foods has said it was confident there was no cellulose in the sample, and didn’t immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

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