Last month, Italian authorities seized 70,000 balls of German made mozzarella cheese after receiving reports that it started turning blue on opening.
The scare sparked the interest of the Italian farming lobby Coldiretti, which claims that the case illustrates the need for tighter rules on the labelling of mozzarella. To publicise this message, it mobilised thousands of farmers and activists at the Brenner Pass on the Italian-Austrian in protest.
The cheeses at the heart of the scandal were produced by the German firm Milchwerk Jager and then sold in Italy under Italian-sounding names like Fattorie Torresina. This increasingly common path to shop shelves provoked the anger of the farming lobby.
Although the German origin of the mozzarella was marked up on the packs, Coldiretti said the names used for the cheeses were misleading.
It is campaigning for mandatory country of origin labelling, arguing that many consumers are not aware that much of the mozzarella sold in Italy is made from foreign milk.
Consumers may assume that Italy is the home of mozzarella production but the manufacturing reality is somewhat different. According to cheese market experts Proteus Insight, today’s market is dominated by processors in Germany, the US and Australia.
In a statement, Coldiretti went beyond the country of origin issue and called for new formulation requirements to be put in place. For example, it wants to see the use of casein, casienates and milk protein concentrates in cheese production to be banned.