Your Grated Cheese Isn’t All Cheese, But It’s Not Bad for You
The guy I work with, wouldn't be caught with a container of Kraft (or any other brand) Grated Parmesan Cheese on his shelves, or in the fridge, even if his life depended on it! "That has wood pulp in it you know?!" he always says with disgust.
I roll my eyes, mumble "yeah, yeah" and continue to use this product that I always have in my fridge. Full disclosure, I usually also have some fresh parmesan on hand. I am Italian after all. But the jarred cheese comes in handy, sometimes, for meatball-making and other recipes where I don't feel like grating my own.
Is it true that your jarred parmesan has wood fiber in it? Yes, but so does a lot of other food.
I read a fascinating article from The Counter (an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that investigates all things to do with what we Americans eat) which took a deep dive into this subject and explained the controversy surrounding it.
Yes, major manufacturers of the grated parmesan cheese you find on the shelf in the pasta aisle are allowed to add up to 9% cellulose to the cheese. Cellulose helps to keep the cheese from clumping up into a giant ball in the jar.
Potassium sorbate (an odorless, tasteless salt produced synthetically from two other naturally occurring compounds) is also added as a preservative to the cheese, as well as to "dried fruits, cakes, and wines, to stop mold and extend shelf life".
Both of these food additives are safe to eat. Both are the subject of ongoing lawsuits. In particular the wood pulp, or cellulose. However, it has more to do with truth-in-advertising and "what constitutes 'pure Parmesan' cheese", than anything else.
Cellulose was approved for use in food products by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) about 50 years ago. It "does little more than provide dietary bulk and possibly 'a laxative effect'," according to food scientists.
If, like the nutball I work with, you're "concerned about eating wood pulp", you should know that every time you eat broccoli, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, strawberries, or just about any other vegetable or fruit, you are consuming cellulose.
It is a naturally occurring element contained in the cell walls of all this produce, as well as, yes, trees. It is tasteless, odorless, and harmless. It helps with digestion and as my work husband says, (despite his feelings on cellulose fiber) "You've never seen an irregular beaver, have you?!"
So, my grated, not 100%, parmesan cheese, will stay in my fridge and I shall enjoy it!
Sources: The Counter and Healthline
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