How to Get Real Parmesan in the Wake of Icky Cheese Revelations

Photo (cc) by RobinEllisActor

I imagine that many Americans were shocked this week to find out that the Parmesan cheese they’ve been sprinkling on their pasta dishes — which is often labeled as 100 percent Parmesan cheese — may be infused with a wood pulp product and, in some cases, contains no Parmesan at all.

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered that some grated Parmesan cheeses have been mislabeled because they contain too much cellulose filler — a complex carbohydrate extracted from wood pulp that’s a common and legal anti-clumping agent food makers use — or they’re actually made from cheaper cheeses, such as cheddar and mozzarella.

Cheese fraud may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but if it makes you feel any better, some of the alleged perpetrators are facing legal action.

Michelle Myrter, president and co-owner of Pennsylvania-based Castle Cheese Inc., is expected to plead guilty this month to criminal charges accusing her company of mislabeling its Parmesan and Romano cheese items, Bloomberg reports.

“Specifically, your product labels declare that the products are Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese, but they are in fact a mixture of trimmings of various cheeses and other ingredients,” the FDA told the company in a 2013 warning letter. “In addition, your Parmesan cheese products do not contain any Parmesan cheese.”

Myrter is facing a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Liz Thorpe, a cheese expert and author of the book “The Cheese Chronicles,” told NBC News that following these tips should help consumers make sure they’re purchasing actual Parmesan cheese and not a mix of cheap cheese or wood pulp-based fillers:

  • Skip the pre-grated Parm. It’s easy and quick to buy a wheel of cheese and grate or crumble it yourself. Plus, “it will taste so much better and you’ll use less cheese because its flavor is so much better,” Thorpe explains.
  • Check the cheese rind. You want to look for the words “Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Thorpe explains: “The first thing to know is that Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano and American Parmesan cheese aren’t the same thing. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a legally protected designation of origin that’s used in Europe only for Italian cheese. The beauty of this cheese is that you can always know that you’re getting the real thing because the name ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano’ is burned onto its rind in an unmistakable dotted pattern.”
  • If you really want pre-grated, know the good brands. Thorpe recommends Sartori, BelGioioso and Arthur Schuman Inc. “Their products are widely available, their quality is really excellent and you can count on their cheeses,” she said.
  • Know the tiers of quality. If you want the best quality Parmesan, shop for it in the deli, Thorpe explains. The dairy case is your second best option, and the green cans in the aisle are a last resort. “Cheese is a perishable product and you want your cheese to require refrigeration,” Thorpe says. “If you’re buying one that is not refrigerated, there’s a reason. A grated product that’s shelf stable — that’s the lowest [quality] product that you could be buying.”

Were you surprised to learn that some pre-grated Parmesan cheese products contain no actual Parm? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers
8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers

We’ve brewed up a list of amazing Amazon products that are sure to perk you up.

Never Buy These 12 Things at a Thrift Store
Never Buy These 12 Things at a Thrift Store

Sometimes a great deal is not worth it — or, even worse, is dangerous.

5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs

These free apps and websites can help you get cash back on groceries, shop more efficiently or squeeze the most from the ingredients you have on hand.

The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station
The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station

Beware these cash-guzzling missteps when you stop at any gas station.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

8 Major Retailers Closed for Thanksgiving This Year
8 Major Retailers Closed for Thanksgiving This Year

More big chains are closing on the holiday to give employees a break and discourage crowding for public safety reasons.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.