The FDA didn't go lightly on Castle either, as company President Michelle Myrter is set to plead guilty to criminal charges, facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. That's a lot of cheddar (money).
Now, while the average consumer likely hasn't heard of Castle Cheese Inc., the company supplies cheese (and filler, apparently) to the titans of the grocery world who then sell it under their own labels. Perhaps you've heard of Jewel-Osco, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and Kraft. Here's a particularly damning passage on the swill cheese found in your local grocer's dairy section:
"Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent, according to test results. Whole Foods 365 brand didn’t list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3 percent. Kraft had 3.8 percent."
Generally speaking, the FDA spends its time making sure the food you eat is safe -- rather than going after companies who defraud their customers. But as evidenced by a $16 billion, worldwide scam where mobsters adulterate olive oil with slag ingredients, there's plenty of money to be made from peddling inferior products to John Q. Cheeseeater.
“The tipping point was grated cheese, where less than 40 percent of the product was actually a cheese product,” Neil Schuman, one of the nation's foremast hard cheese experts, told Bloomberg. “Consumers are innocent, and they’re not getting what they bargained for. And that’s just wrong.”
That earlier, ham-fisted cocaine comparison applies: The pure stuff is plenty great (if you love drugs!) and will net you a hefty profit if you sell it pure. But you can inflate those profits by adding fillers, and most consumers won't know the difference.
And now, apparently, duping your customer with a cut-rate product will lead to jail time, too.
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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He's makes a mean spaghetta alla carbonara. And now he's pretty sure the secret is in the wood pulp. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.