NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Are you getting what you pay for on your plate?

The recent

class-action lawsuit brought against Taco Bell

raised questions about the quality of food many Americans eat each day.

Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you're actually paying for -- and consuming -- may be surprising.

Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured to different lengths for functionality, though use of it and its variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.) is deemed safe for human consumption, according to the FDA, which regulates most food industry products. The government agency sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products meant for human consumption. The USDA, which regulates meats, has set a limit of 3.5% on the use of cellulose, since fiber in meat products cannot be recognized nutritionally.

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"As

commodity prices continue to rally

and the cost of imported materials impacts earnings, we expect to see increasing use of surrogate products within food items. Cellulose is certainly in higher demand and we expect this to continue," Michael A. Yoshikami, chief investment strategist at YCMNet Advisors, told

TheStreet

.

Manufacturers use cellulose in food as an extender, providing structure and reducing breakage, said Dan Inman, director of research and development at

J. Rettenmaier USA

, a company that supplies "organic" cellulose fibers for use in a variety of processed foods and meats meant for human and pet consumption, as well as for plastics, cleaning detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, automotive brake pads, glue and reinforcing compounds, construction materials, roof coating, asphalt and even emulsion paints, among many other products.

Cellulose adds fiber to the food, which is good for people who do not get the recommended daily intake of fiber in their diets, Inman said. It also extends the shelf life of processed foods. Plus, cellulose's water-absorbing properties can mimic fat, he said, allowing consumers to reduce their fat intake.

Perhaps most important to food processors is that cellulose is cheaper, he added, because "the fiber and water combination is less expensive than most other ingredients in the

food product."

Next Page...

Indeed, food producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods, according to a source close to the processed food industry who spoke with

TheStreet

on the condition of anonymity.

Inman said that in his 30 years in the food science business, he's seen "an amazing leap in terms of the applications of cellulose fiber and what you can do with it." He said powdered cellulose has a bad reputation but that more of his customers are converting from things like oat or sugar cane fibers to cellulose because it is "snow white in color, bland and easy to work with."

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Most surprising, said Inman, is that he's been able to remove as much as 50% of the fat from some cookies, biscuits, cakes and brownies by replacing it with powdered cellulose -- but still end up with a very similar product in terms of taste and appearance.

"We're only limited by our own imagination," Inman told

TheStreet

. "I would never have dreamed I could successfully put 18% fiber in a loaf of bread two years ago."

He said cellulose is common in processed foods, often labeled as reduced-fat or high-fiber -- products like breads, pancakes, crackers, pizza crusts, muffins, scrambled eggs, mashed potato mixes, and even cheesecake. Inman himself keeps a box of Wheat Thins Fiber Selects crackers, manufactured by

Kraft Foods

( KFT)' Nabisco brand, at his desk, and snacks on them daily, clearly unmoved by the use of wood pulp in its ingredients.

"Most consumers would be shocked to find these types of filler products are used as substitutes for items that they believe are more pure," Yoshikami said. "We would expect increased disclosure to follow increased use of cellulose and other filler products as the practice increases in frequency."

To that end,

TheStreet

rounded up a list of popular foods that use cellulose. It's by no means an exhaustive list, and we suggest consumers read food labels carefully. Still,

click through the slideshow to find out if your favorite foods contain the "all-natural" wood pulp...

(

Please note the following lists are not exhaustive. Some companies list all ingredients on their Web sites. Other items were found in a local grocery store near TheStreet's headquarters on Wall Street in New York City

.)

Pepsi

(PEP) - Get Report

Pepsi

(PEP) - Get Report

uses cellulose in the following products:

Aunt Jemima Frozen Blueberry Pancakes

Aunt Jemima Original Syrup

Aunt Jemima Original Syrup

Kellogg

(K) - Get Report

Kellogg

(K) - Get Report

uses cellulose in the following products:

MorningStar Farms Chik'n Nuggets

MorningStar Farms Chik Patties Original

MorningStar Farms Buffalo Wings Veggie Wings

Eggo Nutri-Grain Blueberry waffles

Eggo Strawberry Waffles

Eggo Blueberry Waffles

Cinnabon Pancakes Original

Cinnabon Pancakes Caramel

Cinnabon Snack Bars Original

Cinnabon Snack Bars Baked Cinnamon Apple

Weight Watchers International

(WTW) - Get Report

Weight Watchers International

(WTW) - Get Report

uses cellulose in the following products:

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich

English Toffee Crunch Ice Cream Bar

Giant Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Bar

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report

uses cellulose in the following products:

Fiber One Ready-To-Eat Muffins (Wild Blueberry & Oats; Mixed Fruit, Nuts & Honey; Apple Cinnamon Bun, Banana Chocolate Chip)

Fiber One Original cereal

Fiber One Chewy Bars (90 Calorie Chocolate, 90 Calorie Chocolate Peanut Butter)

Fiber One baking products (Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix, Banana Nut Muffin Mix, Blueberry Muffin Mix)

Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic Yellow Cake Mix

Pillsbury Mozzarella and Pepperoni Pastry Puffs

Pillsbury Cheese and Spinach Crescent Pastry Puffs

Pillsbury Artichoke and Spinach Bread Bowl Bites

Pillsbury Buffalo Chicken Crescent Pastry Puffs

Pillsbury Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Bread Bowl Bites

Betty Crocker whipped frostings (Strawberry Mist, Chocolate, Cream Cheese)

Betty Crocker Vanilla Amazing Glazes

Duncan Hines Cake Mixes (Devil's Food Cake Mix, Dark Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry Supreme, Fudge Marble, Classic Yellow, French Vanilla)

McDonald's

( SLE)

McDonald's

( SLE) uses cellulose in the following products:

Fish Filet Patty

McRib

Premium Caesar Salad

Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap

Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken

Southern Style Chicken Biscuit

Strawberry Sundae

Natural Swiss Cheese (used in McRib, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Angus Mushroom & Swiss, Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich, Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich, Angus Mushroom & Swiss Snack Wrap)

Shredded Cheddar/Jack Cheese (used in Ranch Snack Wrap (Crispy and Grilled), Honey Mustard Snack Wrap (Crispy and Grilled), Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap (Crispy and Grilled), Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken, Premium Southwest Salad with/without Crispy/Grilled Chicken, Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with/without Crispy/Grilled Chicken, McSkillet Burrito with Sausage)

Barbeque Sauce

Sweet 'N Sour Sauce

Shredded Parmesan Cheese (used in Premium Caesar Salad with/without Crispy/Grilled Chicken)

Biscuit (Large and Regular) (used to make Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit, Sausage Biscuit with Egg, Sausage Biscuit, Southern Style Chicken Biscuit, Big Breakfast with/without Hotcakes)

Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream (used in Strawberry Sundae, Hot Caramel Sundae, Hot Fudge Sundae, McFlurry with M&M'S Candies, McFlurry with OREO Cookies, Chocolate Triple Thick Shake, Strawberry Triple Thick Shake, Vanilla Triple Thick Shake)

Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup (used in Premium Roast Coffee, Espresso)

Sara Lee

( SLE)

Sara Lee

( SLE) uses cellulose in the following products:

Jimmy Dean Frozen Breakfast Bowl (Sausage & Gravy)

Jimmy Dean D-lights Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowl

Jimmy Dean D-lights Turkey Sausage Croissant

Jimmy Dean Breakfast Entr'e (Scrambled Eggs with Bacon/Sausage and Cheese Diced Apples & Seasoned Hash)

Yum's Brands'

(YUM) - Get Report

Taco Bell

Yum's Brands'

(YUM) - Get Report

Taco Bell uses cellulose in the following products:

Southwest Chicken

Caramel Apple Empanada

Corn Tortilla

Enchilada Rice

Nacho Chips

Red Strips

Strawberry Topping

Zesty Dressing

Jack in the Box

(JACK) - Get Report

Jack in the Box

(JACK) - Get Report

uses cellulose in the following products:

Cheese, Cheddar, Shredded (used in Grilled Chicken Salad, Chicken Club Salad with Crispy Chicken, Meaty Breakfast Burrito, Hearty Breakfast Bowl)

Cheese, Pepper Jack, Shredded (used in Chicken Fajita Pita, Southwest Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken, Meaty Breakfast Burrito)

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Ice Cream Shake Mix

Log Cabin Syrup

Mini Funnel Cake

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks (also part of Sampler Trio)

Smoothie Base (Mango, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana)

Tortilla, Flour (used for Chorizo Sausage Burrito, Steak & Egg Burrito, Meaty Breakfast Burrito)

White Cheese Sauce (used in Breakfast Bowl (Hearty and Denver))

Kraft Foods

( KFT)

Kraft Foods

( KFT) uses cellulose in the following products:

Wheat Thins Fiber Selects

Frozen Bagel-Fuls

Macaroni & Cheese Thick 'n Creamy

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Three Cheese W/mini-shell Pasta

Yum's Brands'

(YUM) - Get Report

Pizza Hut

Yum's Brands'

(YUM) - Get Report

Pizza Hut uses cellulose in the following products:

Parmesan Romano Cheese

Taco Bean Sauce

Shredded Cheddar (for Taco Pizza)

Breadstick Seasoning (used to make Cheese Breadsticks)

WingStreet Bone-In (in the batter)

Meatballs (for pasta products, sandwiches)

White Pasta Sauce (used for PastaBakes Marinara, PastaBakes Meatball Marinara, PastaBakes Primavera, PastaBakes Chicken Primavera)

Alfredo Sauce (used for PastaBakes Marinara, PastaBakes Meatball Marinara, PastaBakes Primavera, PastaBakes Chicken Primavera)

Fat Free Ranch Dressing

Wendy's Arby's

(WEN) - Get Report

Wendy's Arby's

(WEN) - Get Report

uses cellulose in the following products:

Asiago Cheese (used in Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad, Asiago Ranch Chicken Club, Caesar Side Salad)

Fat Free French Dressing (for Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, Baja Salad, Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad, BLT Cobb Salad)

Blue Cheese Crumbles (used in Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, BLT Cobb Salad)

Cheddar Pepper Jack Cheese Blend, Shredded

Chocolate Sauce

Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty (Chocolate, Vanilla)

Frosty (Chocolate and Vanilla)

Frosty Shake (Frosty-cino, Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry, Vanilla Bean)

Milk, 1% Low Fat Chocolate Milk

Sonic

(SONC)

Sonic

(SONC)

uses cellulose in the following products:

Ice Cream

Sonic Blast

Banana Split

Ice Cream Cone

Dole Food

(DOLE)

Dole Food

(DOLE)

uses cellulose in the following products:

Peaches & Cr'me Parfait

Apples & Cr'me Parfait

Yum's Brands'

(YUM) - Get Report

KFC

Yum's Brands'

(YUM) - Get Report

KFC uses cellulose in the following products:

KFC Cornbread Muffin

Apple Turnover

Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce

Lil' Bucket Strawberry Short Cake Parfait

Lil' Bucket Lemon Cr'me Parfait

Lil' Bucket Chocolate Cr'me Parfait

Oreo Cookies and Cr'me Pie Slice

Reese's Peanut Butter Pie Slice

Popcorn Chicken

Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie Slice

Nestle

(NSRGY)

Nestle

(NSRGY)

uses cellulose in the following products:

Hot Cocoa Mixes (Mini Marshmallows, Rich Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Caramel)

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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.

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