Americans love our convenience, but it often comes with a cost, even when we’re not aware of it. One example of the ways in which food manufacturers have catered to this desire for convenience is by selling pre-grated parmesan cheese so that it’s ready to go straight from the grocery store into a recipe or on top of pasta. It makes shopping for and using parmesan cheese much easier, but there’s a catch. There’s no way of knowing if what you’re eating is really cheese.
In 2012 the FDA found evidence that Castle Cheese Inc. was including non-dairy substances in its Parmesan cheese products. The FDA issued stern warnings, including accusations that Castle’s products marketed as Parmesan and romano were actually a mixture of various cheeses and other ingredients.
Castle, which insists that their consumers were never harmed and that it was merely a mislabeling issue, eventually went bankrupt. but the allegations against Castle have spread to other manufacturers of grated parmesan cheese.
One of the most common additives to grated parmesan is cellulose, an anti-clumping agent made from wood chips. Acceptable levels of cellulose range from 2-4%, but the FDA’s investigations have found much higher concentrations in various food products.
The Essential Everyday brand of grated Parmesan sold at Jewel-Osco stores was allegedly found to be 8.8% cellulose. That product has since been removed from all of Jewel’s shelves. The grated Parmesan cheese sold by Kraft Heinz is labeled as 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, but an investigation found it contained allegedly 3.8% cellulose. As a result, Kraft Heinz is now facing consumer lawsuits in states all over the country, including Illinois, Missouri, New York, and California. The Illinois consumer class action lawsuit, filed by Yvonne A., filed for claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
Kraft Heinz’s will surely argue that its use of cellulose is small, but its customers were misled into believing they were purchasing and eating 100% cheese, when in fact there was an inferior product hidden in their groceries. Kraft Heinz had a significant financial motivation to use fillers in their cheese products.
Although demand for hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and romano, have spiked in recent years (rising by more than 10% in 2015 alone), these cheeses are time-consuming and expensive to make. By using fillers, such as cellulose and more inexpensive cheeses, companies can save millions of dollars in production costs, and it’s not just cheese manufacturers that are cutting corners.
In 2012, the New Yorker revealed that most American olive oils are adulterated with lower-quality soybean and seed oils so companies can sell their product at a reduced cost while still making a profit. Cheating consumers into believing they’re getting a quality product, when in fact they’re most often getting a product that is composed of more cheap fillers than actual food, has become a widespread practice in the industry. Americans continue to clamor for cheaper foods and companies are scrambling to find ways to satisfy that demand without sacrificing their bottom line. It’s a slippery slope that has led to even the most vigilant label-readers getting duped.
Our firm is looking for consumers interesting in filing suit who were duped into purchasing Parmesan or Romano cheese with wood pulp in it or adulterated olive oil and have proof of purchase and/or still have the product. We are also looking for consumers who have been duped into purchasing any type of adulterated food product.
Our Schaumburg, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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