By David Juárez
Who else who least has ever wondered if the food that is going to eat is really what the label says. The "natural", "100% ..." or "authentic" are adjectives that are used to sell more, although many times they carry a lie behind. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has uncovered a scandal related to the fraudulent sale of "100% Parmesan" cheeses and, to their surprise, they have found brands that include wood in their products. Yes, they read that right, wood.
The Bloomberg Business medium has published an extensive report where it exposes some big lies that have affected cheese buyers in the United States. The most notable case concerns Castle Chesse Inc., a factory that sold "100% Parmesan" grated cheese without having any Parmesan.
According to the FDA report, this company was taking advantage of the high demand for Parmesan to do a good business. To make this Italian cheese, more expensive than most, they used a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar, white cheese, Swiss and a significant dose of cellulose pulp, a material made from wood, common in sheets of paper. Once the mix was made, Castle Chesse Inc. marketed its adulterated cheese by misleading customers with the labeling.
The ‘castle factory’, based in Pennsylvania, spent 30 years producing the unhealthy cheese according to Bloomberg. The network began to be discovered when in 2010 the company took to boast on its labels of producing "100% Parmesan cheese" and one of its workers was unhappy with the false one. In 2012, the company fired the employee and the employee informed the FDA of the scam. Castle Chesse Inc. in 2013 alone billed a total of $ 19 million, but the following year the FDA began its investigation and the company had to close after filing for bankruptcy. Now the factory president faces a year in jail and a fine that could amount to up to $ 100,000.
The FDA also found other companies that were using the cellulose pulp method to fill their cheeses. Although this wood material acts as an anti-lump agent, its safe level in products should never exceed 2-4%. A figure much lower than that found by the FDA in different factories, where it reached 8.8%.
This is not the first time such a scandal has come to light in the United States. Something similar happened with "extra virgin" olive oil when it was discovered that most of those sold in the country with that label were fraudulent. Once again, the label played a fundamental role to deceive the customer and be able to sell him a product for a higher value than it deserves.