Mozzarella cheese: Imported curd causes latest diplomatic spat between Italy and Germany

National farming group calls for immediate action to protect the reputation of one of the country’s most prized food products

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Indy Lifestyle Online

One-in-four of the mozzarella cheeses on sale in Italy are made not from milk but from industrial curd that is a foreign import, the country’s main farming association has admitted.

The revelation follows news that police seized three-and-a- half tons of the curd at a farm in the Murgia area of Puglia. They feared it was about to be used to produce mozzarella, despite it being in a poor state of preservation.

To rub salt into Italian gourmets’ wounds, much of the curd seized in Bari was thought to have come from Germany, with which Italy is currently embroiled in a diplomatic spat regarding what is sees as Berlin’s overweening dominance of the EU.

Roberto Moncalvo, the head of the national farming group Coldiretti, called for immediate action to protect the reputation of one of the country’s most prized food products.

“Given these new frauds and scams there’s no time to waste in saving [the reputation of] ‘made in Italy’ and it must be made obligatory right away to indicate the origins of dairy products in order to guarantee transparency and health of consumers,” he said.

He warned that surreptitious use of imported curd instead of home-produced milk, apart from producing second-rate cheese, also “distorted the market, depressed prices paid to Italian farmers and forced the closure of farms”.

Currently, the best quality mozzarella – that made from buffalo milk – is labelled DOP (Denominazone di Origine Protetta, or protected name of origin) and is subjected to regular checks. Mozzarella is a principle ingredient in everything from pizzas and arancini to caprese salads. But in recent years, quality and safety concerns have dogged the creamy, stringy, white cheese.

In 2008, dioxins were detected in the buffalo milk of some local dairies. The carcinogenic chemicals were thought to be present in the soil – and the grass eaten by the buffalo – as a result of the illegal dumping of toxic waste, an activity that nets the Camorra mafia hundreds of millions of euros a year. 

And in 2010, Italian authorities had to issue a Europe-wide alert over possible contamination of mozzarella after balls of the cheese turned blue.