Walmart is facing a lawsuit regarding wood contents found in its parmesan cheese.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still investigating the issue about some Parmesan food products containing less than 100 percent cheese, which cropped up a week ago, according to a report in Consumer Affairs
Walmart is being sued for selling Parmesan products that contained wood pulp in the form of cellulose, reports Bloomberg. It contradicts the label that reads “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese.”
Walmart’s Great Value brand was made up of 10 percent of a wood-based anti-clumping agent called cellulose, researchers have found, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. Customer Marc Moschetta said in the lawsuit he wouldn’t have bought the cheese if he’d been aware that “the 100% representation was false and mis-characterized the amount and percentage of Parmesan cheese in the container.”
The lawsuit is the outcome of an investigation by Bloomberg News, which used the independent laboratory to test results of store-bought Parmesan cheese for wood-pulp content.
The tests found Essential Everyday 100 percent Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, contained 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart’s brand 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 Heinz Co.’s Parmesan had 3.8 percent of the filler.
Parmigiano Reggiano has long battled domestic hard grating cheeses using the name Parmesan, which implies that something is “from or of Parma,” a city in Italy within the zone of origin for Parmigiano Reggiano. Known as the “King of Cheeses” and “the ONLY Parmesan,”, in 2008 an E.U. court ruled that the name Parmesan could no longer be used for any cheese other than Parmigiano Reggiano.
Known as the “King of Cheeses” and “the ONLY Parmesan,”, in 2008 an E.U. court ruled that the name Parmesan could no longer be used for any cheese other than Parmigiano Reggiano. The exception to this protection, however, is the United States, to which it does not extend to and where countless domestic imitations still use the name.
The U.S. arm of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, an industry group that seeks to protect the integrity of this popular type of hard cheese, asserted that the original Parmigiano Reggiano does not contain any cellulose. It stated in its news release,
“Cellulose is a plant fiber made from wood pulp used in many food products in the United States. While legal in the U.S. in specific small amounts, cellulose is however never present in Parmigiano Reggiano which adheres to strict E.U. specifications where additives of any kind are not permissible.”
When a manufacturer fools with the ingredients, the reason is often to cut the cost. Parmesan is expensive to make because it loses moisture and content during the aging process. The FDA guidelines say that Parmesan must contain no more than 32 percent moisture, its solids must contain not less than 32 percent milk fat and it must be cured for no less than 10 months. Cellulose is optional.
Moschetta is seeking class-action status for the fraud claims, which would allow shoppers across the country to band together to press claims against Wal-Mart. He says other reviews of Wal-Mart’s house brand Parmesan cheese found higher pulp content than Bloomberg’s tests. The suit was filed in a Manhattan court on Tuesday under the name “Moschetta v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.”
Meanwhile, Walmart has been cautious in its handling of the matter. Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the following.
“We take this matter seriously. We will review the allegations once we have received the complaint and will respond appropriately with the court.”
So the next time you ask someone to pass the parmesan cheese to sprinkle on your pasta, make sure that the ingredients have been checked, and match the label, or else you might end up with wood in your food.
[Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images]