Authorities play down Italian cheese scandal fears

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

As another scandal involving Italian cheese production hit the headlines this week, authorities in the country claim there is no danger to the public from their products and consumer protection has not been compromised.

Reports have emerged over the last seven days alleging that a number of arrests have been made in the country related to the production and sale of cheeses that had been mixed with out of date or even rotten products.

However, both the country’s authorities and the European Commission are confident that consumers across the bloc are not at risk from eating Italian cheeses.

The case is the latest setback for the Italian cheese industry, which in March of this year faced a potential ban in Europe for some of its mozzarella products due to fears over carcinogenic dioxin contamination in milk used for their formulation.

Italian confirmation

While Francesca Martini, under secretary of state in the country, confirmed that the spoiled cheese manufacture had taken place, she played down any health risks to consumers from the case.

Martini said in a statement that she had already taken action over the rotten cheese products on 4 July this year in accordance with both national and EC guidelines.

She claimed that in order to ensure consumer health was not at risk by the cheese, an immediate request was made in July for information to be referred to the food safety and nutrition authorities to withdraw any potentially harmful products from circulation as soon as possible.

While the information was still unavailable a month later, had Italian authorities been concerned for consumer safety, they could have still have removed the products from sale under the Rapid Alert System linked to EU Regulation 178/2001, Martini said.

Future vigilance

While the authorities claim to be confident that consumers remain protected under the laws, Martini stressed the importance of preventing further scandals in Italian cheese production.

"It is clear that, even if these fraudulent practices did not jeopardise public health, they do give rise to alarm and mistrust among consumers,”​ she stated. “They harm market operators who abide by the law and they undermine our country's good name in matters of food quality and safety."

Commission view

Despite these concerns, the EC said that it remained confident that cheese production within the country did not pose a risk to consumers.

Back in July, when the case first emerged, the Commission said that it had been notified by Italian authorities that a manufacturer had collected and re-processed milk products to be sent on to a related company.

The manufacturer’s factory was closed as a result back in June 2007, the commission stated.

Related topics Regulation & Safety Cheese

Related news