Mozzarella makers say cow milk reports inconclusive

Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:32pm EST
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By Ella Ide

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Producers of Italy's trademark buffalo mozzarella rushed to reassure consumers on Wednesday about their cheese after media reports of tests which revealed nearly one-third had been cut with ordinary cow milk.

The adulterated cheese was traced to a dairy run by Luigi Chianese, president of La Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, an organization of some 200 producers set up to promote and safeguard the quality of buffalo mozzarella.

Random tests on shop-sold mozzarella carried out in November by a police unit specialized in food adulteration revealed that 25 per cent of the samples could not be legitimately classed as buffalo mozzarella because they contained at least 30 per cent cows' milk, Italian media said.

Italy's Agriculture Ministry refused to confirm the test results and Chianese himself told Reuters he was the victim of a "venomous campaign" by his competitors.

The Italian Agricultural Confederation, however, warned the reports could prompt a "domino effect" harming the reputation of the 300 million euro ($426.1 million) a year mozzarella industry, rocked in recent years by contamination fears in the southern Campania region.

Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said there was no concern over safety standards, merely the quality of some produce.

"Buffalo Mozzarella from the Campania region is good and I encourage people to eat it without any worries," he told La Stampa newspaper.

The ministry has assigned five independent experts -- including a member of the military police -- to supervise the association's production for the next three months.   Continued...

<p>Buffalo mozzarella cheese is on sale in a shop in downtown Paris March 28, 2008. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>