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Cheese Executive Gets Probation, Fine For Fake Parmesan

The executive of a US-based 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 $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service, US attorney David Hickton said in an emailed statement.

Myrter pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanour charges involving food adulteration. Prosecutors said that 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% 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% 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 an article on 16 February. In a test of 100% grated Parmesan brands by an independent lab, Bloomberg News found cellulose levels of as much as 8.8%.

News by Bloomberg, edited by ESM. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.

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