Walmart’s Great Value food brand has been slapped by a lawsuit over a cheese product it sold that allegedly contained wood pulp.
The plaintiff, Marc Moschetta, claims he was induced to purchase Great Value’s “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” at a premium price because he believed it was, indeed, 100 percent cheese. But it contains 7 to 10 percent cellulose — a filler and anti-clumping agent derived from wood chips — according to a complaint filed last week, which accuses the retail brand of deceptive business practices.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and alleges “material misrepresentations” under New York law and laws in 42 other states. The 8-ounce cheese costs $2.98 on Walmart.com.
“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. We will review the allegations once we have received the complaint and will respond appropriately with the court.”
Others in the cheese industry are speaking out too, like Neal Schuman. Schuman’s New Jersey-based company, Arthur Schuman Inc., is the biggest seller of hard Italian cheeses in the U.S., with 33 percent of the domestic market. He estimates that 20 percent of U.S. production — worth $375 million in sales — is mislabeled.
“The tipping point was grated cheese, where less than 40 percent of the product was actually a cheese product,” Schuman said. “Consumers are innocent, and they’re not getting what they bargained for. And that’s just wrong.”
The case has not yet been granted class action certification, but attorney Jason Sultzer said others have expressed interest in joining the case against Walmart.
“The case isn’t about consumers getting sick,” Sultzer said. “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.”