Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wood As An Ingredient In Cheese, And Other Wrong Things In Our Store Bought Food

Does the grated parmesan cheese you buy at the
supermarket have wood pulp in it? Probably.
This is another example of how the food
industry lies to us. 
If I eat prepackaged shredded parmesan cheese, will I get termites?

An odd question, yes, but maybe not so odd given the revelations this week that some grated cheeses have an unannounced ingredient: Wood.

Well,  it's cellulose, but most of that comes from ground up wood.

In 2012, it turns out the federal Food and Drug Administration raided a Pennsylvania cheese factory and found that Castle Cheese Inc. was doctoring its so-called 100 percent real parmesan cheese with substitutes like fillers and wood pulp, says Bloomberg News.

Castle's president, Michelle Myurter pleaded guilty recently to criminal charges. She could face up to a year in  jail and a $100,000 fine, Bloomberg says. 

It also looks like other producers of grated parmesan cheese fill it in with what is basically groud up wood.

This wood, or cellulose as regulators call it, is considered a safe additive and can comprise up to four percent of that can of parmesan you pick up at the local Piggly Wiggly or whatever.

Bloomberg had various paremsan cheese from grocery stores tested.  The results weren't great. Essential Everyday has what it calls 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, but a sample from a Jewel-Osco store in Wisconsin showed it was actually 8.8 percent cellulose

I guess Essential Everyday thinks that wood chips are the exact same thing as cheese.

Other grated parmesan cheese came back with anything from 0.3 to 7.8 percent wood chips.

The worst part about all this is we can't trust food manufacturers to tell us what's really in the food they sell us. That's because marketing is more important than truth. And safety.

True, most of the lies they tell us are about ingredients that probably wouldn't harm most of us. But there are people allergic to certain things. Nobody would ever be able to trace things back because who knows exactly what you ate and when?

There's a lot of examples of inaccurate food claims:

Olive Oil:

Last year, we learned that extra virgin olive oil might be anything but. According to CNBC and numerous other media outlets, Italy's anti fraud investigators were probing whether seven well known olive oil brands were selling lesser quality olive oil as "extra virgin."

Again, the extra virgin olive oil that really isn't won't hurt you, but you're paying extra from a high quality product that is not high quality at all.

Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first press of olives, which is the best. Subsequent presses aren't as good, and are sold as either virgin olive oil or just olive oil.

Maple Syrup

Here where I live in Vermont, maple syrup is an important industry. Just last week, members of the Vermont Sugar Makers Association and other maple industry groups took the food industry to task for saying there's maple in their products when there is not, according to the Associated Press.

Again, the artificial ingredients and corn syrup that masquerades as maple syrup in such products as oatmeal and energy bars won't hurt you much, but they lead you to believe that you're getting wholesome maple syrup when you're really not.

Says the AP:

"Roger Brown, chairman of the Maple Industry Committee of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, said maple syrup - derived from heating sap from maple trees - is a premium product and sweetener and for that reason a number of companies imply that a product contains maple without the ingredient being present. 

He said the association has asked the FDA to investigate so that consumers get what they're looking for, and maple producers get compensated for their hard work."

Pet Food:

Even pet food is subject to ingredients that aren't there.

According to, Blue Buffalo was forced to admit last year that it had chicken by-products in its pet food, like internal organs, renderings etc. That was contrary to what Blue Buffalo packaging and advertisements said.

This came to light only after pet food rival Purina, which grew suspicious, sued Blue Buffalo.

Assume They're All Lying.

I guess the bottom line here is many, if not most food manufacturers are lying to us about what is in the food they sell us.

The only way around it is to grow all of our own food, which of course is a huge challenge for most people.

The FDA says they focus more on food safety rather than ingredients, which makes sense. The FDA is too short staffed and underfunded to go after people who lie about what ingredients they put in our food.

Industry wins over our well-being again, I'm afraid.


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