Walmart is facing a lawsuit for allegedly selling Parmesan cheese with wood pulp filler and advertising it as “pure cheese."
The retailer reportedly stocked its stores in New York with containers labeled “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese,” Bloomberg News reports. However, tests later showed Walmart’s Great Value brand of parmesan cheese contained between 7 and 10 percent cellulose, an anti-clumping agent derived from wood chips.
On Feb. 23, customer Marc Moschetta filed the lawsuit, saying he wouldn't have bought the cheese if he had known what was in it. He added that the "100% representation was false and mis-characterized the amount and percentage of Parmesan cheese in the container," according to Bloomberg News.
Moschetta’s suit seeks a jury trial and alleges that Walmart misrepresented the products it was selling under New York law and laws in 42 additional states, CNBC reports. He is seeking class-action status for the fraud claims, which would allow consumers in other states to join the suit.
"We know earning customer trust starts with high standards for the products we carry," Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told CNBC.
“We take this matter seriously," he added. "We will review the allegations once we have received the complaint and will respond appropriately with the court.”
Attorney Jason Sultzer said others have expressed interest in joining the suit if it reaches class-action status:
The case isn't about consumers getting sick. Regardless of the price of the product, people are still buying the product based on the label, and families are being put off. Imagine giving that to your kid with their pasta ... We're very confident that the case is going to move forward, based on the allegations in the complaint.
A 2012 investigation by the FDA connected the use of wood pulp derived cellulose with a long-time cheese vendor in Pennsylvania. That same cheese vendor was also accused of mixing in other types of cheeses and positive Listeria test results.
The use of cellulose in cheese has also received media attention lately after Bloomberg News conducted an investigation of cheeses from Jewel-Osco, Walmart, Whole Foods and Kraft. All of the brands contained cellulose, although the samples from Jewel-Osco and Walmart tested far higher than the samples from Whole Foods and Kraft.