Cheese executive gets probation, fine for fake Parmesan

Thousands of pounds of fake cheese were made and distributed by Castle Cheese, passing it off as 100 per cent Parmesan to US stores between 2010 and 2013.
Thousands of pounds of fake cheese were made and distributed by Castle Cheese, passing it off as 100 per cent Parmesan to US stores between 2010 and 2013. PHOTO: ST FILE

WINNIPEG (Bloomberg) - The executive of a company that doctored its Parmesan cheese with substitutes such as wood pulp has been sentenced to probation and a fine.

Michelle Myrter, 44, president of Castle Cheese Inc in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to three years probation, a US$5,000 (S$6,890) fine and 200 hours of community service, United States Attorney David Hickton said on Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.

She pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor charges involving food adulteration. Prosecutors said her company and two others controlled by her family made and distributed hundreds of thousands of pounds of fake cheese, passing it off as 100 per cent Parmesan to US stores between 2010 and 2013.

 

Agents from the US Food and Drug Administration and the Internal Revenue Service raided company facilities in January 2013 after getting a tip about the fake cheese from a former employee. Afterwards, the company used real ingredients, causing profits to plunge, according to court documents. Castle Cheese is now in bankruptcy proceedings.

False-label claims in 100 per cent grated Parmesan products are a problem in the US, with some companies looking to save money by using filler such as cellulose, an anti-clumping additive derived from wood pulp, Bloomberg News reported in a Feb 16 article. In a test of 100 per cent grated Parmesan brands by an independent lab, Bloomberg News found cellulose levels of as much as 8.8 per cent.