France bans sales of Italian mozzarella over dioxin scare


France’s Agriculture Ministry ordered shops on Friday to stop selling some mozzarella imported from Italy because of a dioxin scare.


In a statement, the ministry said tests would be carried out on the mozzarella to see whether it is safe.

The French order concerns the mozzarella made from buffalo milk in the southern Italian region of Campania – the most prized type of the soft, creamy cheese.


The ministry called the order a precautionary measure. In a statement, Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier “asked professionals to immediately set aside the products concerned while awaiting more information.”


Samples of the cheese have been found to contain higher-than-permitted levels of dioxins under European food safety rules. A day earlier, the EU warned Italy to take further action to ensure that dioxin-tainted mozzarella does not end up on store shelves, and it warned that the bloc could impose a ban on the popular cheese from Campania.


The subtly flavored mozzarella is an ingredient in pizza, but also is eaten uncooked, often alongside prosciutto or with sliced tomatoes and basil.


Italian officials said Wednesday they had temporarily shut down production at more than 80 cattle farms after detecting higher-than-permitted levels of dioxin in 25 mozzarella-making facilities out of 130 checked.


The milk is being destroyed, while authorities carry out further checks on farms in southern Italy to determine how the feed got contaminated, the officials said.


The scare involves only mozzarella producers around the Naples region, which has also been under EU investigation over its recent crisis over garbage collection and disposal.


It was not clear what, if any, role Campania’s garbage crisis has had in the mozzarella contamination. But earlier this year, Naples health authorities began screening residents for dioxin contamination amid accusations that toxic garbage was being dumped illegally by the mafia-controlled garbage industry in the area. (AP)