France erupts in scandal over reported use of 'fake cheese' in supermarket ready meals

Undercover TV report finds widespread use of vegetable fat-based substitutes

Adam Withnall
Monday 15 June 2015 16:18
Screengrab from France 2's report showing undercover reporting inside the factory
Screengrab from France 2's report showing undercover reporting inside the factory

Known for its haute cuisine, fine wine and sometimes galling delicacies, there is nothing more quintessentially French than getting up-in-arms over substandard food.

So it is unsurprising that a major scandal has erupted over a TV exposé claiming “fake” cheese is being used by some of France’s leading food manufacturers.

Undercover reporters for France 2 secretly filmed inside wholesale manufacturers making ready-meal products such as pizzas, burgers and pasta dishes that are then sent to supermarkets around the country.

They found that items marked as containing cheese were in fact filled with “artificial” substitutes, produced without fresh milk.

France 2 quoted an unidentified factory worker who said one “cheese” was in fact made of “water, vegetable fat, table salt, lactic acid and potassium sorbate”. Its investigation, which included analysing samples in a lab, said that the “fake” cheese was 40 cents cheaper per kilo than “a first-rate cheese”.


Nutritionist Beatrice Reynal told the TV channel that the substitute did not offer the same health benefits as real cheese. “It is fat, saturated fat, but without the beneficial effects of calcium.”

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, restaurant owner Xavier Denamur said there had been outrage among food critics and restaurateurs alike in the aftermath of the report.

“Consumers are being misled,” he said. “This is an area where we French should be setting an example but instead we're victims of the global craze for junk food.”

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