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Buffalo mozzarella authenticity at risk

'Watered down with cows' milk'

19 January, 15:17
Buffalo mozzarella authenticity at risk (ANSA) - Rome, January 19 - Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia announced on Tuesday that he had placed a consortium of producers which guarantees buffalo mozzarella quality under appointed administration because of its failure to ensure the traditional cheese's authenticity.

"I placed the consortium under appointed administration after inspections found that even the consortium's president was watering down his buffalo milk with cow milk," the minister explained.

"Over the past two years my zero-tolerance policy has led to the discovery of many causes of food fraud. In November, controls made in leading supermarkets found that 25% of the cheese sold as buffalo mozzarella was fake because it contained 30% cow milk," Zaia added.

The minister's action is the latest blow to the traditional cheese which has PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) recognition from the European Union and is a prime ingredient in the Naples-style 'real' pizza, which last month was finally awarded a TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) label. In 2008, mozzarella sales and exports plummeted after tests showed that some plants near Naples were producing cheese with excessive levels of dioxin and another dangerous contaminants.

Then in April of last year police found that some buffalo had been 'doped' with a human growth hormone, somatropine - which is legal in the USA but not Europe - in one of Italy's prime mozzarella-making areas near Caserta.

Experts said at the time that there was no risk for consumers from the hormone.

Mozzarella is supposed to be produced exclusively from whole buffalo milk and the cheese is rich in calcium, high in protein and lactic flora substances, and with a high vitamin and mineral salt content, it is highly nutritional.

ZAIA TOOK SIMILAR ACTION FOR BRUNELLO WINE.

Soon after taking office in the spring of 2008, Zaia had to defuse a potential dispute with the United States over the authenticity of the prized Italian wine Brunello di Montalcino, which some experts consider to be perhaps Italy's finest wine and certainly among the best in the world.

Also in this situation the minister stripped the producers' consortium of its power to authenticate the product.

At issue was not the quality of the wine but the fact that it was being made with grapes from outside the Montalcino area and thus did not qualify for the guaranteed PDO label and could represent a case of fraud by US law.

The matter was very serious considering that the US consumes 25% of the Brunello on the market and some 45% of all quality wine produced in Tuscany, the so-called 'Super Tuscans'.

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