Dr Oz: Is There Wood In Parmesan Cheese?
Recently, an Italian classic turned American favorite recently made headlines after reports that most Parmesan cheese sold in America actually contains wood pulp. Mark Schatzker revealed that a recent investigation by Bloomberg News found that several brands of Parmesan cheese, some of which were even labeled “100% Parmesan,” contained a filler called cellulose, which comes from wood. One brand had almost 9%! Consumers were so upset that two major Parmesan producers are now being sued. So how do those popular food products vary from the real thing?
Real Parmesan cheese is made from milk, enzymes, cultures, and salt and originally comes from Italy, where it’s known as Parmigiano Reggiano. There, it can sell for up to $40 a pound. We also make out own Parmesan in the U.S., and in it’s unprocessed state, there’s nothing wrong with it. What’s sold on grocery shelves is also supposed to be real Parmesan, just pre-grated.
Dr Oz: Cellulose & Fillers In Parmesan Cheese
Companies claim cellulose prevents the cheese from melting, but Greg Blais at Eataly, said they actually use it as a filler to save money. Eataly sells over 500 pounds of Parmigiano Reggiano every week. As for whether it’s safe to eat cellulose, Greg said “it’s probably not going to kill you, but why would you want to do it?” In terms of flavor, those products won’t taste nearly as good as the real thing. While it may not be a health concern, Mark said it all boils down to honesty, and letting consumers know exactly what they’re paying for.
Dr Oz: Parmesan Cheese Investigation
Dr Oz agrees that as consumers, we all deserve to know exactly what we’re putting in our bodies. There are no literal wood chips in your Parmesan cheese, or even sawdust. What people are referring to is the cellulose which is a substance found in all kinds of plants, including fruit and vegetables. People are claiming there are wood chips, because “industrially, that’s where it comes from,” Mark explained.
Once again, the issue boils down to how much Parmesan cheese you’re actually getting, instead of cellulose. When a product is labeled 100% Parmesan, you would assume that means no cellulose. Some manufacturers used just .3% cellulose, while others had 3.8%. Some Parmesan even had 7.8% cellulose and another had 8.8%.
As Mark pointed out, that shows you that companies only have to use .3% to prevent clumping, so those that are using more, as doing it as a way to make more money. According to the FDA, 2-4% cellulose is allowed and “generally recognized as safe.”
Dr Oz: Avoid Fake Parmesan Cheese
Mark also pointed out that all sorts of names for Parmesan are being used on labels, but it really doesn’t mean anything. Some companies are even adding other cheeses like mozzarella because they’re cheaper. Mark even found one Parmesan cheese that had no actual Parmesan in it.
To know if you’re getting the real thing, don’t go for the plastic bottled stuff! Buy a chunk of real cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, and grate it yourself. Plus, when it’s fresher, you don’t need as much because the flavor is stronger.
Dr Oz: Processed Cheese Food Investigation
Mark then wanted to find out more about processed cheese and the point at which cheese can no longer be considered real. The average American consumes about 25 pounds of cheese per year. Mark revealed that a lot of the cheese we’re eating, likely isn’t even cheese at all. Beecher’s is a family-run cheese maker in New York City and Kurt Dammeier is the founder.
Kurt explained that real cheese starts with good milk. To that milk, cultures, enzymes, and heat are added. Next, the curds are separated from the whey and the curds are pressed. Finally, the cheese is aged.
Processed cheese food only has to be 51% real cheese, which left Mark wondering what made up the other 49%. The truth is, more than 17 ingredients are put into the products to call them cheese, including sodium phosphate and protein concentrate.
Mark then explained that if you look at other parts of the world, especially where the Mediterranean diet is followed, you’ll find that people are eating more cheese than us, but aren’t facing the same obesity epidemic. The truth is that you can still eat cheese and be healthy, it just has to be the real thing. Because processed cheese lacks in flavor, we tend to use more of it, which means more calories.
Dr Oz: Buying Better Cheese
To spot fake cheese, read the label. Look for the word cheese, because if you see cheese product or cheese food, it’s likely not the real thing. Real cheese has simple ingredients like milk, salt, enzymes, and bacterial cultures. Once again, it’s about knowing what you’re buying and consuming. You should also pay attention to aroma, appearance, and flavor. Dr Oz suggested feta, Gruyere, aged Gouda, and block cheddar.