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Oh, just grate: Man sues Shaw's over 100% Parmesan cheese he says isn't actually 100% cheese

Cheese

A customer at the Norwood Shaw's says he's not just offended but "injured in fact" by the store-brand container of "100%" grated Parmesan cheese he bought that is filled with "adulterants and fillers," including cellulose, a wood-derived substance of nutritive value only to termites. So he's filed a lawsuit against Shaw's parent company.

In his suit, filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, Derrick Sims makes the casein that he was just floored to learn that his container of Essential Everyday grated parmesan cheese, which "boldly" states it's 100% grated parmesan cheese, might actually be more like 91% cheese and 9% cellulose. Grated-cheese makers use cellulose as an anti-clumping agent.

Plaintiff would not have purchased the product, and/or would have paid significantly less for the product, had he known that the “100%” representation is false and mischaracterizes the amount and percentage of Parmesan Cheese in the container.

Through his attorneys, Sims seeks to become the lead plaintiff in a class action against Shaw's owners, who operate Shaw's, Star Markets and a bunch of stores nobody in Massachusetts has ever heard of, but which also sell Essential Everyday grated parmesan cheese. The lawsuit cites consumer-protection laws in states across the country.

The suit asks a judge to bar the chains from selling anything less than 100% grated parmesan cheese, hand over all their ill begotten gains from selling cellulose disguised as parmesan cheese, pay lots of damages and, of course, reimburse the lawyers.

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They all lie, if it has more than 10 ingredients, put it back on the shelf.
How about people that have to avoid MSG? It's in most, if not all processed foods, under a variety of names.

Even the Chinese restaurants that advertise "NO MSG" they just use a similar ingredient that is pretty much about the same thing (high sodium).

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and eat american chinese food, i will laugh at you

or for that matter, almost anything that isnt homemade

for that matter, if you conflate the term "no msg" with "low sodium", you probably deserve whatever you have coming

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There is no such thing as a MSG allergy according to science.

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Oh, really? Maybe you should talk to a neurologist about that. MSG is a major migraine trigger to those who are sensitive to this chemical. Just because it doesn't bother you, doesn't mean it's not real.
The more avoid MSG the less headaches I have, if any.

Bon appétit.

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While glutamate/glutamic acid plays a role in the brain, there's no evidence for a clear link between dietary glutamate and brain chemistry. At least I couldn't find a study that demonstrated that link--did I miss one?

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Here's a 2014 literature review:

https://sci-hub.io/10.1002/9781118744185.ch30

Despite a widespread belief that MSG can trigger migraine headaches, there is a striking paucity of literature to support this claim. As a result, low-MSG diets should not be empirically recommended for the chronic headache patient since they are not based in clear scientific fact and are only likely to be an unnecessary burden for these patients.

Overall, the available data on MSG reflect that it is safe for use as a food additive in the population at large. MSG toxicological data have not demonstrated serious nervous system effects in humans. Furthermore, metabolic studies performed in infants and adults have shown ready and rapid utilization of excess glutamate with failure of serum glutamate levels to rise even when very large amounts of MSG were ingested with carbohydrate. The carefully done DBPC studies indicate that MSG ingestion is likely to be without adverse effect even in people suspecting themselves to be MSG reactors [42, 43, 61]. MSG has not been clearly documented to cause bronchospasm, urticaria, angioedema, or migraine headache. It is possible that large doses in excess of 3 g of MSG ingested on an empty stomach and unaccompanied may elicit the MSG symptom complex. This syndrome is likely to be infrequent and transient, resolving without treatment. In conclusion, there is no clear evidence in the current scientific literature documenting MSG as cause of any serious acute or chronic medical problem in the general population.

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Except references 42 and 43 show a response to MSG greater than placebo, and when she discusses adverse effects earlier in the chapter, its clear from context she only means permanent adverse effects.

Yeah, MSG won't kill you or cause brain damage -- that's a straw man here. She's talking about it in the context of early studies that showed MSG killing neonatal mice.

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42 and 43 state

The results suggest that large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG. However, the frequency of the responses was low and the responses reported were inconsistent and were not reproducible. The responses were not observed when MSG was given with food.

If that's the evidence for an MSG-induced headache epidemic, that's some weak sauce.

There's simply no empirical evidence that MSG has the effects that many people claim. There have been no experiments that show a link between consumption and migraine. There's no indication that dietary consumption changes brain chemistry (yes, I get your point below that peripheral nerves can't be ignored). But I think the biggest issue is that people supposedly sensitive to added MSG claim and experience no sensitivity to foods naturally rich in glutamate. I know our knowledge of how meals affect our body is still an area of rapid development, but the empirical and theoretical rationale for an MSG sensitivity just doesn't exist despite decades of research.

I have no skin in this game, and if avoiding MSG works for people--even if it's purely a placebo effect--hey, great. But I think we should dial back the claims that there's a scientifically demonstrated cause-and-effect.

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Go look up the word "psychosomatic."

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People don't avoid MSG because of an allergy, although they may say that because they don't understand the biology very deeply themselves, or because that's often the easiest way to explain it to a waiter or to acquaintances suggesting a restaurant.

Many people who get migraines have mutations in the genes that control how their nerves process glutamate, rendering them more susceptible to migraines after consuming large amounts of glutamate.

You're correct that the immune system isn't involved, but that distinction doesn't matter in everyday life. You eat something with lots of MSG (Chinese food, canned chicken broth, whatever) and then you feel horrible afterwards.

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Uh, you guys? When MSG hits water, it immediately disassociates into two things: sodium and glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid ("non essential" means your body can metabolize its own when needed) which does not cross the blood-brain barrier (so you can eat five pounds of it and none of it will ever reach your neural tissues). If you had any sort of sensitivity to MSG, you would have a neurological makeup completely unlike that of any mammal in the recorded history of the phylum. You would also have died long before you were born, so it's probably moot.

MSG sensitivity is the Korean Fan Death of the west.

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I can't say WHAT exactly is happening, but when I was a small child growing up in the suburbs, whenever I ate "Chinese" food at local Chinese-Polynesian restaurants, I got sick: flu-like symptoms like a headache and vomiting. It was in the early 70's: before I'd ever heard of MSG or MSG syndrome (or whatever people call it.) I declared myself allergic to Chinese food and when dragged to a Chinese restaurant restricted my dining to French bread with butter (Boston style!) and cups of tea with sugar.

Years later, I learned to request "no MSG" in suburban restaurants and the problem went away. I never had a problem in Chinatown until I discovered the Vietnamese restaurants. I love Pho, but if I drink too much of the broth, I feel it in my spine and often my head. Usually eating some chocolate will help counteract the effects.

What is going on medically or chemically? I HAVE NO IDEA, but it's something.

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It's something, but it's almost certainly not related to consuming MSG.

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The chocolate may help a little because the caffeine acts as an anti-inflammatory. Best to avoid the MSG in the first place.

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You're just wrong, sorry. You need to find a new hobbyhorse.

First, glutamate does diffuse across the blood-brain barrier, less readily than across other membranes (only about 1% as leaky) but it does leak.

Second, there is an active transport system to move glutamate across the blood-brain barrier (both in and out), as you would expect for a porous membrane that nevertheless maintains different levels on both sides.

Third, glutamate transporters are mutated in many migraineurs, and migraine sufferers have elevated glutamate levels in their plasma, platelets, and cerebrospinal fluid (that's inside your blood-brain barrier, FYI ).

Fourth, it doesn't really matter whether glutamate crosses the blood-brain barrier of not -- migraine is a systemic disease, involving the peripheral nervous system (especially the trigeminal nerve), the platelets, and the gut endothelium, all of which are sensitive to dietary glutamate.

Yes, migraineurs are not physiologically normal -- they have a genetic disease that causes them occasional to frequent bouts of intense unilateral head an neck pain, often accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations and either vomiting or alternating diarrhea and constipation.

I strongly suspect that migraine is genetically heterogeneous and some migraneurs will turn out to not be sensitive to MSG. For example, the serotonin system surely plays a role -- some migraneurs may turn out to be sensitive to tryptophan or tyamine levels due to mutations in the monoamine oxidases or something like that. However, right now there's no genetic test to discriminate between hypothetical migraine subtypes, so people have to go by their family history and own hard-won experience.

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I tell you what, Vaughn K, next time I get a migraine from MSG, I'll head over to your house and vomit on your shoes.

It's not a true "allergy" in the scientific sense, but a sensitivity that triggers a migraine. So I give up Doritos and nearly any canned chicken soup and many salad dressings and...

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That sounds terrible.

I think there is a distinction to be made however between the old conventional 'wisdom', now somewhat faded, that MSG is bad for people in general vs. the reality that MSG is simply something that certain people need to avoid for reasons specific to their own particular body.

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Migraine is really common (~16% of the population). Even if only 1% of migraneurs are sensitive to MSG, MSG sensitivity would be about as common as peanut allergy. I suspect that it's actually far more common.

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If MSG-induced migraines are more common than peanut allergies, it's baffling that zero of the 31,000+ studies cataloged in PubMed demonstrate that link.

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No, even your review article conceded that as many as 2% of the population might be MSG sensitive.

Your model of what results you should expect to see from the literature is faulty.

Most of the MSG challenge studies you're looking at are small, and contain at the most about 100 cases and controls. If only a fraction of migraineurs are actually MSG sensitive, but nearly all of them have been told to avoid MSG, your case population is not going to demonstrate a consistent response, because few, if any of them will actually be MSG sensitive just by chance.

The genetic studies that have established associations between migraine and glutamate transport are enormous -- using hundreds of thousands of cases and controls. Because migraine is genetically heterogeneous you need these large samples to detect associations with individual genes in a fraction of cases.

If you were to select cases a for an MSG challenge study on the basis of their genetics and history of migraine, a study of a couple hundred might actually have sufficient power to detect an effect. Nobody's published anything like that yet because the genetic associations are less than one graduate student lifetime old. The alternative would be to do an MSG challenge study with hundreds of thousands of cases and controls which would be absurdly expensive.

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People are going to call this frivolous, but in this day and age of the FDA/government giving zero craps for the American public, being litigious is the only way to keep food producers and sellers even remotely honest about what they're feeding us.

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The parent comment is 100% correct. If the government cared about enforcing the laws and real consumer protection than lawsuits like this wouldn't be needed. But as it stands this is the only way to keep them honest. You should be able to buy food in the supermarket and know what's gone into it irrespective of how processed the product is.

If they put it in the box they should put it on the label. No exceptions.

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What if it's not frivolous, but a career plaintiff?

Good for him, for stepping up to do what our regulatory agencies are failing to do. If he gets big enough settlements to scare companies out of lying to consumers, then I hope he gets filthy rich doing it.

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The 100% clearly modifies "grated" and not "cheese." The label is claiming that all the cheese in the container is grated, not the container is all cheese. Unless the dude found an ungrated chunk of cheese, this suit should be tossed.

Yet another sign Trump should be elected to make America grate again.

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Actually... the way the label is made, I will be laughing long and hard if the suit gets tossed because of that (and then I will cry for the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in)

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Forensic linguistics exists for a reason. You show the label to panels of 100 people, and then asked them if by reading it they drew the conclusion that the contents of the can were pure Parmesan cheese. If the vast majority said yes, then that's what the label meant -- there's no weaseling out of it by parsing the sentence some other way.

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Maybe the company meant that 100% of the contents are graded, but not 100% cheese?

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that the cheese is 100% cheese. Not that the end product in that container is 100% parmesan cheese.

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Not sure why people think it's mock-worthy to sue a company for fraudulently misrepresenting their products. You think going to them and asking them nicely to be honest would be effective?

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As a society we have internalized that making money is the greatest good, by hook or by crook.

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Don't let them keep selling you pre-shredded cheese; make America grate again

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it can get any better than that!

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If you want 100% grated parmesan cheese, buy a block of parmesan cheese and grate it yourself. But we're very lucky that a man with an apparent cellulose testing laboratory came buy to save us all from this product.

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Should we also expect that the pre-cut cheese blocks from Cracker Barrell aren't 100% cheese? Where does it end?

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Pretty much all shredded cheese (even the kind in the plastic ziploc bags) contain cellulose to help prevent caking and clumping. Ikea sells a cheap rotary cheese grater for those who do not want to eat wood.

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Exactly. It is there for a reason. So you need to decide for yourself if you prefer convenience or eating exactly 100% grated cheese and nothing more.

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Why is it so hard to list the contents on the label irrespective of the reason for it's addition?

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The ingredients are listed on Shaw's grated cheese, on the back, as usual. This guy's simply cheesed off because the "100%" puffery on the front of the container didn't align with the fine print on the back.

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it looks suspiciously like many of them are trying to convey the impression "100% parmesan cheese" but with the possible out of saying in court "oh, we only meant 100% GRATED, i don't know how you could have mistaken that".

some of them are much more questionable than the one in this photo (example: "100%" bigger than "grated" and matches the font and color of "parmesan cheese", but they have a line between "100% grated" and "parmesan cheese").

it's pretty clear that whoever designed the packaging is trying to be deceive. and the stores don't care enough about food quality and food safety, to do the contracts and testing. maybe this suit will make more stores care.

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I think more people would be sympathetic If we were talking about a 90 count bag of pizza rolls where 10 or so of the "pizza rolls" are a wood-derived substance of nutritive value only to termites.

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Because that would be a completely different situation than this, you mean? Yes.

The cellulose is in the cheese as a necessary anti-caking agent. It's distributed finely and evenly throughout the grated cheese, as it's an ingredient; it's not chunks of wood thrown in a can of cheese.

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of making companies be accurate and honest with what they put in stuff. but i feel like on the back of that product it probably has more ingredients listed than cheese and beyond that that there isn't any malice or misinformation intended

maybe some clarity in the case of potential allergens or something (because people can't be entrusted to watch out for their own well being, ofc)

i saw the blurb on twitter and was ready to come in guns blazing supporting this guy's quest to right the injustices perpetrated against us by big cheese, but this particular case just isnt doing it for me

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but i feel like on the back of that product it probably

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there isn't any malice or misinformation intended

Seriously? I would think that there was a deliberate attempt to deceive the consumer into believing that the package contained cheese and nothing but cheese, wouldn't you?

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of making companies be accurate and honest with what they put in stuff. but i feel like on the back of that product it probably has more ingredients listed than cheese and beyond that that there isn't any malice or misinformation intended

The lawsuit is frivolous, but I wouldn't go that far in supporting the manufacturers here. Food product manufacturers engage in all sorts of misleading-but-still-technically honest puffery on their products to get you to buy them.

Rather than raise prices, they shrink the net weight by a fraction of an ounce - but leave the product in the same container so you don't notice, unless you're paying close attention.

Cheap candy companies use words like "chocolatey" to describe a product with no chocolate, "lemon-flavored" to mean not-actually-lemon, Kraft uses "cheese product" to mean heavily processed and containing no actual cheese (just whey or milk proteins), and they all use "natural flavors" to mean they used not a speck of fruit flavoring, but what they did use was at least a natural flavorant, but from somewhere else. Vanillin can be sourced from nature and thus "natural," but it's not vanilla.

Market Basket is in the habit of putting up these orange "always low prices" signs next to products right after they raise the price by a few cents. People obviously see the ad puffery and don't notice the actual price went up.

K-Mart advertises $2.88/gal on a big sign next to a display of windshield washer fluid. Last year the net weight on the actual bottle was "1 GAL (4.54L)." This year the net weight is "1 US GAL (3.79L)." How many people would notice?

I recently noticed a bottle of shampoo switched from "32oz" to "32 fl oz." 32 fluid ounces does not weigh two pounds.

I remember once seeing a grated cheese company (I think it was 4C) which sold 10oz cans started adding this red "NOW 25% FREE" banner around the cap of the can. It was still 10oz and still the same price; nothing free was added. But a few months later, the can shrunk to 8oz, the banner disappeared, and the price was the same as it had been for 10oz. Most people would have long forgotten the original 10oz cans, and just thought the company ended the "25% free" "deal." What they really did was jack up the price 25% by being clever.

The cleverest one I saw recently were two products side-by-side: A store brand 16oz block of cheese with a unit price listed as $3.40/lb and a brand name version of the same cheese, listed as 34.0¢/oz. Anyone quickly glancing at these labels would think they were the same and buy the "better" brand name cheese not realizing it was $5.44 in total. (And there is no way I'm going to be convinced that wasn't the intent.)

IMO this kind of stuff is a case of "caveat emptor." The company is honest in what they put in their product - if you do your due diligence and read the fine print - net weights, nutrition labels, and ingredient listings. If you just glance at the container and only look at the front-label puffery, you will be misinformed and mislead, and it's fully intentional when the companies do this. Unfortunately it's not really "dishonest" as no one lied anywhere.

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FOOD JUSTICE FOR ALL!

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Read other people's comments before posting the same thing that has already been said.

That is all.

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otherwise somebody might post a comment that doesnt add anything relevant to the discussion whatsoever. there are, after all, a limited number of web gnomes to shovel the posts into the server

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Not only that, but a lot of comments are of low value, and posting them merely overtaxes the available resources.

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Messageboard rule #2

YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT MESSAGEBOARD.

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The anon postings get the time stamp of when they are submitted, but they have to be approved by Adam, which frequently leads to people saying the same thing and thinking that they are the first to do so.

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I didn't know that. Thanks for the lesson.

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i love fake cheese on my fake food.

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Also, this lousy scamp. He probably read this article from the Bloomberg and purposely went out and bought it so he could sue.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/the-parmesan-cheese-yo...

Notice how the article says 8.8% cellulose and the guy, who is no doubt a world-renowned cheese scientist, calculated it to be 9%.

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The complaint is basically based on that Bloomberg article, rather than the plaintiff going out and testing cheese on his own.

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In his defense, there are set limits on the amount of cellulose allowed in cheese, and this stuff went way over that limit. So while I doubt this guy was acting on noble intentions, I can't exactly feel bad for the company. Actually, screw them.

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but it is entirely reasonable to gaze upon an entire set of belligerents, shake your head, and say F the world

no need to limit your scorn

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I like the cut of your jib.

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Ok, now that we've had our fun...

This is a case of food labeling laws creating jargon out of common terms. "Grated Parmesan Cheese" is explicitly allowed to include anti-caking agents without the need for a modifier like "grated cheese product" or "grated cheese food." So 100% "Grated Parmesan Cheese" does not mean it's 100% cheese because "Grated Parmesan Cheese" is not 100% cheese according to federal law.

Federal Grated Cheese Law:

(c) Optional ingredients. The following safe and suitable ingredients may be used:

(1) Antimycotics.

(2) Anticaking agents.

(3) Spices.

(4) Flavorings other than those which, singly or in combination with other ingredients, simulate the flavor of cheese of any age or variety.

d) Nomenclature. (1) The name of the food is "grated cheese" or "grated cheeses", as appropriate. The name of the food shall be accompanied by a declaration of the specific variety of cheese(s) used in the food and by a declaration indicating the presence of any added spice or flavoring (NB: no declaration of anti-caking agents required).

...

(3) The following terms may be used in place of the name of the food to describe specific types of grated cheese:

(i) If only one variety of cheese is used, the name of the food is "grated ___ cheese", the name of the cheese filling the blank.

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leader that knows cheese. A leader who'll make our cheese great again. We are not cheddar cheese, or yellow cheese or parmesan or munster cheeses but real american cheese. We need to worry less about perception and political correctness and build a wall around the dairy isle. If the Kurds can find a whey to american style democracy so can we.

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a real wedge issue.

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          He has a strong record of fighting the FDA in defense of cheese!

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cheese.

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Most of the additives in pre-grated cheeses is there to keep the cheese from sticking and clumping. It is often wheat based. Celiacs and people who must be gluten free should never use these types of cheeses. Grate your own from a block of real cheese.

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The Norwood Shaw's has been known to be blatantly dishonest in the past. See this video (somewhat loud... be ready with the volume control):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9S_ZpvXB4E

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It might also be that the cheese (whatever portion of the contents that is cheese) is 100% Parmesan, as opposed to Parmesan-Romano.

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I'm supposed to believe that Juicy Juice is really 100% juice for 100% kids?Does this mean

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I'd be willing to bet this Sims guy also drives a car with a home-made sign taped to the back end that reads "DO NOT TAILGATE", and brake checks anyone who gets within 20 feet.

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