Be Careful Saying “100%”…


Cheese is a milk-based food with an ancient history that predates recorded times.

(In other words, cheese has been around a lot of years.)

Eons, even.

Many cheese are named for places.

Colby (Wisconsin), Asiago and Parmigiana (Italy), Munster and Brie (France), Edam and Gouda (the Netherlands) and Cheddar and Stilton (England).

I found some interesting names for cheeses.

“Dirt Lover, Sgt. Pepper (Do you serve it with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer?), Shepherd’s Hope, Stinking Bishop, Fat Bottom Girl (Freddie Mercury’s favorite?) and Drunken Hooligan” to name a few.

How about some cheese puns?

“Cheesy come, cheesy go.”

“Cheese Louise!”

“Do you ‘brie’-lieve in magic?”

“Let it brie.”

“If looks ‘curd’ kill.”

“Lay your “curds’ on the table.”

“You’re up to no ‘gouda’.”

“I’m getting ‘feta’ up with this.”

“In ‘queso” emergency.”

“Sorry to hear you’re feeling ‘bleu’.”

“Absence makes the heart grow ‘fondue’.”

So, why all the the information about cheese?

It’s due to a Federal court case connected to Parmesan cheese.

This cheese is actually Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesano, meaning “of or from Parma”.

This “Parma” is a city in northern Italy and not the city in northeast Ohio that “Ghoulardi” (Ernie Anderson) used to ridicule along with Dorothy Fuldheim back in the 60’s on TV8 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Anyone else remember “Turn blue!”

But I digress.

Back to the cheese.

The French renamed it Parmesan.

Now the legal case involving Parmesan cheese is connected to a Federal Appeals Court that sided with a consumer group in a false advertising suit against several makers of grated Parmesan cheese.

A 2 judge panel of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago reversed the ruling of a district court judge who has dismissed the false advertising claims against 5 businesses in this “cheesy” matter.

(By the way, the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney-Barrett, actually heard arguments on this case in September of 2020 but was elevated to the highest court before she could take part in the ruling).

The issue centers on the labeling of cannisters of grated Parmesan cheese that also contain “cellulose” to prevent caking, or potassium sorbate, to prevent mold.

Some of the cannisters advertise “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” on the front of the package while the back label lists “additional” ingredients.

So, is it “100% Parmesan cheese” or simply “100% grated”?

Dozens of lawsuits were filed in 2016, alleging labeling those products “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” violated state consumer protection laws.

A news story that same year (2016) claimed some of the brands contained as much as 8%
“cellulose” or a food additive made of wood fiber.

Now I thought this was out of fear that someone who ate the cheese might catch “Dutch Elm Disease” or “Chestnut Blight”.

But cellulose produces no known harmful side effects when added to food stuffs so scratch that fear.

Personally, I found it interesting that no one complained about the “potassium sorbate” to prevent mold.

I only mention that because I don’t see “McPotassium Sorbate” on the menu at the golden arches.

All the cases in this matter were consolidated in Chicago Federal Court before the judge who dismissed the claims that the “100%” labeling was “deceptive”.

That judge felt it was “reasonable” that consumers could find the “additional” ingredients on the back label.

The judge also said, “It’s common sense that Parmesan cheese can’t sit unrefrigerated in the middle of a store without added ingredients”.

(For me, when you start getting into “common sense” matters, that ice gets real thin.)

An Appellate judge felt grocery store shoppers shouldn’t be expected to read the fine print on every grocery store item.

The case goes back to the Chicago Federal Court where the original “false advertising claim” will proceed with regard to “100%” labeling plus consumer complaints that the companies were using more cellulose than needed for “anti-caking purposes” and therefore used it as “filler”.

So, why did this case catch my eye?

First of all, it’s about cheese and it’s been knotting up the court system for nearly 5 years.

This isn’t about election fraud or handguns or civil rights.

It’s about cheese and what 100% means.

It seems clear to me that the stuff in the cans isn’t “100%” cheese because the ingredients list other “goodies”.

We shouldn’t be over concerned about “cellulose being harmful because it’s an undigestible carbohydrate (dietary fiber) and we are told all the time we need fiber.

I think the real issue here is how much “cellulose” is needed to actually keep the cheese from caking up.

If cheese companies are, in fact, adding up to 8% cellulose to the Parmesan cheese, think of the profit margin when you’re producing tons of cheese when only 92% of the product as actually cheese.

That allows you to fill a few more containers…and sell them.

Now I’m not pointing fingers and, since cellulose doesn’t appear to be a healthy risk, can we just agree to confess the stuff is either “100% grated” or “100% grated cheese”?

If it’s not about the cheese, then why can’t I buy an unrefrigerated container of of “100% grated cellulose dyed yellow that looks like Parmesan cheese?”

Or wait… maybe I can!

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