Italy Restricts Cheese Export in Dioxin Crisis
The European Union in action: Brussells has backed off from a forced ban on Italian mozzarella originating in the Campania region, as Italy has agreed to halt export on its own. The cheese in question has tested positive for dioxin, a known carcinogen. This is a big deal for Italy, as mozzarella is its most "mainstream" cheese in the eyes of the rest of the world; the damage isn't just economic, but cultural as well.
EuropeanUnion health officials backed off threats to impose a Europe-wide banon mozzarella from Italy's Campania region on Friday saying Rome hasoffered more guarantees to ensure dioxin-tainted cheese products do notend up on shop shelves.
The European Commission, which had previously threatened atrade ban unless Rome acted more aggressively, said it wassatisfied with Italy's latest effort to contain the scare.Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema played down thehealth risks even as he announced a recall affecting an industrywhich employs 20,000 people and is worth about 300 million euros($475 million) a year."This is a limited phenomenon and once the (recall) measuresare completed, we're convinced that we can restore confidence inthe quality of a product that remains a symbol of Italiangastronomy," he said.
"My first reaction was not to eat it as this is scary," said Milanese pensioner Mario Rossi as he shopped in a supermarket, where rows of mozzarella cheese were stacked, untouched. "But I will continue eating it, though with caution."
At Milan's Obika Mozzarella Bar, a restaurant specialising in quality mozzarella, diners happily munched on the cheese. The restaurant, which has branches in Rome and London as well, says it has not felt any impact from the scare so far.
"Our clients trust us. ... This is something that has scared a lot of people but it is a case of counterfeit," founder Silvio Ursini said by phone, underlining that all cheese used by his restaurants undergoes thorough checks.