Italy avoids EU Mozzarella ban

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

After a week of uncertainty for the future of Italian Mozzarella
producers, the European Commission today said it will not be
banning sales of the cheese.

The Commission announced it was satisfied Italian authorities had intensified safety measures in the Campania region that has been linked to contamination of carcinogenic dioxins within some of the country's mozzarella cheese.

Italian authorities have moved to play down the danger, which has been linked by the Commission to waste disposal problems in the Campania region believed responsible for the contamination of milk used in the cheese.

However, the country's authorities were given until yesterday evening by the Commission to provide further information on the extent of the outbreak, including information on tainted shipments and any destroyed cheese samples, or face a potential ban on the product.

Safety measures News reports earlier this week suggested a number of Asian markets including Japan had restricted imports of the Italian product over the concerns.

This action now seems unlikely after Italian officials promised definitive measures to clamp down on any further potential dioxin outbreaks.

"[We have] been informed that controls in Campania have been intensified, that further inspections are carried out in the establishments where dioxin was found with the purpose of trace-back and recall action, which has already began," the EC stated.

Further to this agreement, Italian officials will also be required to perform systematic checks at all dairy plants in the region, particularly in the Caserta, Napoli and Avellino provinces.

Although talks were continuing between Italian and EC authorities over technical issues regarding laboratory testing and other control plans, Italian Mozzarella has been cleared for continued trade within the bloc under the above conditions.

However, manufacturers bound under the Mozzarella di Bufala Campania Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system, claimed that their products were not involved in Attorney-General investigations into the dioxin outbreak.

According to a release, the group said that its manufacturers were bound by strict production conditions including certified testing by the association's certification board and quality control from the country's Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policy.

In addition, the group claimed its manufacturers also employed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and exmployed strict health and chemical testing of ingredients before being processed.

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