Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Italy Defends Mozzarella, Japan Blocks Imports

Italy Defends Mozzarella, Japan Blocks Imports
(Reuters – Silvia Aloisi and Miho Yoshikawa)

Italy said on Wednesday only a small number of buffalo mozzarella farms had been found to be using milk tainted with cancer-causing dioxin, seeking to avert a food scare over one of its most famous culinary treats.

Japan and South Korea have suspended imports of the cheese while the European Union has asked Italy for safety assurances after reports some of the cheese was made with contaminated milk. Brussels told Rome to respond by Wednesday at the latest.

"Checks have been made on 132 producers and only in nine cases traces of dioxin have been found," Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema told reporters, saying international alarm over the mozzarella was "totally exaggerated and unjustified".

A Japanese health ministry official said Japan had suspended imports on Sunday and was waiting for Italy to provide details. South Korea, which also halted imports at the weekend, said it would conduct its own tests to see if there was dioxin contamination.

Police near Naples were investigating whether feed given to buffalo herds, which produce the best milk for mozzarella, was tainted, possibly by gangsters involved in illegal waste disposal.

However, health officials said the presence of dioxin appeared to be linked to a garbage crisis earlier this year in Naples and the surrounding Campania region, a top producer of the cheese.

With landfills and dumping sites in the area full, locals burned piles of garbage in the streets and in open fields. Health officials say industrial waste was also set ablaze, spreading fumes that in some cases contained dioxin. …

Read the complete article at http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL2659105820080326.

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