Unless you're really into grated cheese, you might not know who Michelle Myrter is. She's the president of Castle Cheese, Inc. Not for much longer, though. She is headed for (maybe) a year in the Walled-Off Astoria and a $100,000 fine, because all those times that people in Pennsylvania sprinkled Castle brand parmesan cheese on their pizzas and hoagies, they were not really getting 100% cheese in that jar.
Remember this, the next time someone cries about there being too much government regulation and inspection: U.S. Food and Drug Administration agents found that Castle Cheese Inc. was doctoring its 100 percent real parmesan with cheapo substitutes and fillers, like wood pulp.
The FDA got a tip on this and sent in the inspectors. You have to figure the tip came from someone in the factory whose conscience got him/her to the point of feeling bad about little Tommy or Jenny down the block eating sawdust with their pepperoni (and heaven knows what's in THAT.)
It also turns out that some grated Parmesan vendors have been cutting the cheese by filling it with too much cellulose, which is an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp. Sometimes, they use cheap cheddar cheese, instead of real Romano.
And hey, for what the supermarket charges for this stuff, we should be getting RAY Romano.
A man named Neal Schuman, who runs Arthur Schuman Inc - the biggest American seller of Italian hard cheeses - keeps an eye on the honesty of his competitors. He figures that 20% of domestic parmesan is no more cheesy than the wood in your dining room table.
Bloomberg News bought some cheese and sent it out for testing, and while they do point out that 2 - 4% of cellulose pulp is acceptable, what's on the shelf at TryNSave contains more.
Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose. Wal-Mart's Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 wood. Whole Foods - known for purity and organicness, does not list cellulose on the label of their 365 brand, but it still contains 0.3%. Kraft had 3.8 percent.
Spokespersons for all those firms had the usual "We remain committed to the quality of our products" replies to the Bloomberg story, but really, what's in that cheese?
Wooden you like to know?