In 2013, the FDA sent a letter to Caste Cheese Inc., a Pennsylvania manufacturer of packaged cheese product, detailing the results of an investigation they'd conducted which showed the company's "100% Parmesan" and "100% Romano" cheese were, in fact, 0% of either.
"Specifically, your product labels declare that the products are parmesan cheese or romano cheese, but they are in fact a mixture of trimmings of various cheeses and other ingredients," the report said. "In addition, your parmesan cheese products do not contain any parmesan cheese."
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What could be more nefarious than cheese fraud! I'll tell you what: Turns out Castle Cheese wasn't just selling customers bogus non-Parmesan and non-Romano cheeses—they were selling customers wood pulp. Yup, that's right: wood. pulp.
"The motive for doing so was simple—it was less costly for the Corporate Defendants to produce cheap, fake cheese while customers paid premium prices for real cheese," prosecutors wrote in the case against Castle Cheese and its president Michelle Myrter, who they say, "reaped the benefit of the difference between the lower costs and the higher revenue."
Earlier this year, Myrter pled guilty to fraud—and while she still faces a potential six-month jail term, the U.S. government is recommending that any community service she may be required to complete take place in a food pantry or soup kitchen, making the punishment more in line with the (culinary) crime. Myrter's lawyer, however, has requested probation for his client. He claims the prosecutor is "sensationalizing a relatively vanilla regulatory offense and inflating the role that Michelle Myrter personally played," reports Bloomberg.
Hey kids, here's a life tip: Don't be a jerk and sell people wood pulp disguised as cheese or you may 'brie' finding yourself behind bars.