The alleged hazards posed by Italy's mozzarella has provoked South Korea into banning imports of the southern Italian delicacy.
Rich and creamy and twice the price of mozzarella produced by cows, buffalo mozzarella is one of the proudest exports of the Naples region, but it became a casualty of the region's environmental crisis when inspectors found carcinogenic dioxins in some samples of the cheese.
South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture announced that imports of the cheese had been blocked, pending tests to check if it was contaminated. South Korea imports about 10 tons of the cheese every year.
Meanwhile the regional mozzarella producers' association, alarmed by a scandal that has seen sales plummet, insisted the problem was restricted to a tiny minority of producers in one corner of northern Naples.
The "Consorzio Tutela del Formaggio Mozzarella di Buffala Campana DOP" said that 12 of the buffalo herds quarantined had been released because "many of the analyses, carried out by laboratories in the north of Italy, were mistaken, creating an unjustified alarm." The consortium pointed out that the 61 herds still in quarantine were a small fraction of the total of 1,900 in the clear, and accounted for just 3 per cent of the region's production in 2007.
In Naples an expert in the medical department of a city university claimed the origin of the dioxin was in the animals' fodder. But Professor Maria Triassi said the alarm was unwarranted because the concentrations of dioxin were not high enough to be dangerous to health. "It's not useful to create an alarm like this which can put an entire economy on its knees," she said.