Italy cuts the cheese: mozzarella has elevated levels of carcinogen

Mangia, mangia…just not mozzarella from some dairy farms in Italy.

The country’s Health Ministry recently found elevated levels of dioxin in some buffalo mozzarella—that mouthwateringly soft cheese that’s often accompanied by tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil (tutto bene!). Dioxin, a naturally occurring chemical that sometimes occurs in higher levels during manufacturing, is a known carcinogen. That’s definitely something you don’t want to put on a pizza. The county halted production at 80 cow farms yesterday, and is currently investigating the situation.

From an article in the UK’s Daily Mail:

The level of dioxin in milk and mozzarella in 25 of 130 facilities in southern Italy was “moderately higher” than allowed under EU rules, the Health Ministry said in a statement.


Checks were begun after reports of high levels of dioxin in some samples of buffalo mozzarella. Yesterday, health officials said they put 83 farms that supply materials to 25 cheese makers under seal pending tests.

The ordeal will be yet another blow to the industry: Italy’s mozzarella production already has a bad rep because of the toxic trash dumping that’s been occurring in Naples region—in and around where buffalo mozzarella is produced. Even more scandalous—some of the illegal trash dumping is done by certain “families” (connected individuals that wield political influence, enjoy veal pizzaiola, and hang out down by the pier in the wee hours of the morning…capice?).

Though elevated dioxin levels certainly won’t help mozzarella’s trashed reputation (the product’s trade association says buffalo mozzarella’s sales have dropped 40 percent in the past few months), authorities insist that illegal dumping and higher amounts of dioxin are not related.

And just like that, our cravings for margherita pizza have suddenly vanished.