Korea has its fair share of pizza companies. The main international contenders such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza and Papa John’s have a growing market presence in Korea, while homegrown companies too can be found in any part of the country. The latter companies are very popular with their cheap prices. One such company, Pizza School, offers pizzas for as low as 5000 KRW (4.5 USD), compared to American companies with prices that can be 3 to 5 times more expensive. The Korean pizza franchise businesses however were at the centre of attention this Thursday (February 16th) as details emerged that their so-called 100% natural cheese was in fact processed or imitation cheese. The source of the deception is not yet known, but it has collected the most responses from netizens on the Korean portal site Nate this week. Whilst not as severe, there are overtones of the sewage oil phenomenon that caused a lot of problems in China in recent years.
From Yonhap News:
Revelation of famous pizza companies’ use of ‘cooking oil cheese’
A number of famous pizza franchise businesses were caught by the authorities for falsely advertising the use of natural cheese when in fact using imitation cheese or processed cheese.
The Gwangju Regional KFDA (Korea Food & Drug Administration) disclosed on the 16th of this month that 9 pizza franchise companies, who were using both imitation and processed cheese marked as 100% natural cheese, as well as 3 manufacturing firms who falsely stated their cheese ingredients, were handed over to prosecutors for violating the Food Sanitation Act.
Natural cheese is made by using milk as its main ingredient, which is then clotted and fermented. However, processed cheese is made by adding food additives to natural cheese which softens it, while imitation cheese adds additives to such things as cooking oil to create a similar appearance to cheese.
Pizza School (688 stores), 59 Pizza (546 stores), Pizza Maru (506 stores), Nanta 5000 (80 stores), Pizza Giga (80 stores), and Super Giant Pizza (54 stores) used things like packaging boxes and information leaflets saying they used natural cheese even though they actually used processed cheese containing ingredients like starch, cooking oil, acid regulator etc.
Furthermore, Suta Song Imsil Pizza (9 stores), Imsil Cheese Village Pizza, Imsil Cheese and 79 Pizza deceived consumers through misleading advertising on shop signs and pizza boxes saying they only used natural cheese when in fact they were using a ‘cheese mix’ that combined the use of imitation cheese in the pizza topping.
The sale of pizzas made using these kind of misleading ingredients amounts to tens of billions of KRW [tens of millions of USD].
While taking a closer look at each company, Pizza School made 31.3 billion KRW, 59 Pizza 13.6 billion KRW, Pizza Maru 12.6 billion KRW, Nanta 5000 300 million KRW, Pizza Giga 700 million KRW, Super Giant Pizza 20 million KRW, Suta Song Imsil Cheese Pizza 900 million KRW, Imsil Village Cheese Pizza 30 million KRW, and both Imsil Cheese and 79 Pizza 15 million KRW each.
The cheese manufacturing firm First Dairy sold cheese products falsely advertised as 100% cheese, when in fact they were made by combining things such as corn starch, cooking oil, and acidity regulator.
Logen Foods and Hyungwon P&C distributed cheese products through pizza franchise stores while not indicating that starch was added in the products.
The KFDA said that they would strengthen their crack down on the act of false statements that deceived consumers, while urging anyone to report of cases where illegal products were found to be used.
Comments from Nate:
Oh! I’m a regular customer at Pizza Maru… Considering the price I didn’t really think the cheese was natural anyway, but I still ate it. Anyway…why have all these company names been exposed in such a way? Why haven’t big companies [ie Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza, Mr Pizza etc.] been exposed?
Really got the runaround by Pizza School! I did eat there every now and then.. ㅠㅠ
I worked part-time at one of the pizza companies mentioned in the article for 2 years, and we received stuff from the head office stamped as 100% real cheese, so naturally because the managers received it from the main office as such, they in turn passed it on to us saying the same thing. And because on the cheese packaging it was written “100%”, I too of course thought it to be true. So please don’t think that you were cheated on or got the runaround by the managers, as those people too were fooled because of the head office, which in turn fooled regular customers. None of them knew about it, and the manager in the place I worked at said that all the vegetable ingredients should come from domestic agricultural lands and the part-timers too were always educated to never think of the pizzas as ‘cheap’, even though they were cheap [in price].
My mum owns and works at one of the Pizza School branches, and as soon as I saw this article, I was so scared, called my parents, as a result of which they were completely taken aback. I am talking to them on the phone right now because they are still agitated… the pizza [my mother] gave to her customers…to my son, my family…the cheese… it was the stuff that was sent over from the company… I beg of you not to swear at those mothers [who work there]. And for those of you who go to Pizza School, so sorry, we didn’t know… we really didn’t know…..
If you read this article carefully, except for Imsil whatever-it’s-called Pizza, only in the ‘crust’ (added in the crust) was this cheese used. Also rather than feel deceived by the pizza companies, isn’t it also the case that the pizza companies were also deceived by the cheese manufacturers…
Comments from Daum:
I’m curious about one thing… when big companies have faulty items, they don’t report it publicly [the truth is concealed]… so in this case the how did the truth seep out?
Isn’t it a little strange? Of all the beef exported from the US, the lowest quality one is made to come into Korea, and in my opinion, the government is just saying blah-blah-blah, right? While my thinking might be wrong, in the last few days I have been trying to find various kinds of information, but the more I do, the more I am determined to think that in the world, the lowest quality American beef is exported to Korea (even BSE is worrying..). For those of you who complain, what is the basis of your argument? I don’t accept the meddling [in this affair] of soul-less people.
Hey wait, if you try eating it, you wouldn’t know. Huh huh, I’m a Pizza School buff, and according to the article, [the use of artificial ingredients] the crust has imitation cheese (ie. cheese stuff crust) – but the cheese topping is natural cheese – and if I may also add, Homeplus, E-mart, and other supermarkets’ pizza toppings are all artificial.
I feel deceived by 59 Pizza – and are they not investigating major supermarket pizzas? As I recall, those contain a lot of oil too.
It shouldn’t be called cooking oil cheese but imitation cheese.
Ah fucking Pizza School – most pizzas are cheap prices, but if companies were to speak honestly, I wouldn’t feel any sense of betrayal ;;;;;