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FDA Warns The Parmesan You're Eating Might Actually Be Wood Pulp

Credit: Krisztina Kantor Toth / EyeEm/Getty

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been duped.

Yesterday, Bloomberg Business reported that several brands (Market Pantry, Great Value, Kraft) marketing their grated cheese as 100% Parmesan actually isn’t 100% Parmesan (some are even 0%!).

Many brands use exceptionally high amounts of cellulose, or wood pulp, as filler. Larger suppliers (like Castle Cheese, recently convicted for mislabeling by the FDA) use cellulose and a blend of cheaper, lower quality cheeses, yet have charged Parmesan prices for years. Yes, our collective nonna is spinning in her grave.

Since labels can’t be trusted, here’s how to shop for great Parmesan:

  • Skip the pre-grated stuff. It’s waxy and tasteless. Plus, grating your own allows for fluffy, fine shreds that dissolve beautifully in sauces, or wide curls that shatter on the tongue. We love this Microplane grater and these Oxo peelers.
  • Look for white spots. These are actually fat crystals, and the more the better. They provide an instant umami hit and the faintest crunch when you take a bite. Corner and bottom hunks of Parm with rind have the most spots.
  • You don’t need top dollar Parm. A $7 to $8 range for an 8-ounce wedge is great for everyday use, such as BelGioioso.
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