Article amended to reflect conversation with investigating magistrate.
Today on Italian food news site NewsFood.com an article stated that 70% of Italy’s mozzarella cheese is contaminated by bacteria. The truth is that it’s too early to make such a claim – as the 70% really refers to mozzarella tested, not all of the mozzarella in Italy.
Still, while most of the bacteria in question found during testing was not harmful, some was.
Scientific research into this issue was commissioned by Raffaele Guariniello, a magistrate in Turin, who has communicated the results of the study to Italy’s health ministry. Over 1,000 mozzarella cheeses taken from all over Italy were subjected to tests by scientists, and bacteria was found.
This worried me a little, so I called the investigating magistrate, Raffaele Guariniello to speak to him about it. He said that while bacteria had been identified in the samples tested, it’s too early to speak about health risks – further tests and investigations are being carried out to establish what risk, if any, exists. In other words, it’s too early to panic and it’s probably wrong to claim that 70% of mozzarella produced in Italy contains bacteria, some of which may be harmful.
The harmful bacteria found in the 1000+ samples of mozzarella tested included bacillus cereus, enterobacteria (cause of urinary infections in individuals with suppressed immune systems), Escherichia Coli (which can cause meningitis, peritonitis, septicaemia and pneumonia), salmonella and also stafiloccocus aureus bateria. (source: Il Quotidiano Italiano)
Apparently, Italy’s ASL health authorities have been unable to carry out all the inspections necessary to ensure cheese producers are respecting legislative guidelines.
Some 10 mozzarella cheese producers are under investigation by Guariniello for having produced cheese which may not have been fit for consumption.
According to the NewsFood.com article, local spring water is often used to cool mozzarella producing machinery and this is illegal, as drinking water should be used.
If you are coming to Italy, or are in Italy on holiday and you or your family feel bad after eating mozzarella, go see a doctor.
It may not be such a bad idea to avoid giving children food which contains uncooked mozzarella cheese until the situation has been clarified – this means food such as salads, sandwiches, and mozzarella bought from artisan producers.
I assume, on the basis that bacteria is killed by high temperatures, that cooked mozzarella – which is on virtually all pizzas sold in Italy, is OK – but I am not certain of this – so please check. The magistrate investigating this case was also of the opinion that cooking mozzarella will probably eliminate harmful bacteria.
Source: NewsFood.com article – in Italian – is here: Mozzarelle, il 70% contaminato da batteri – Mozzarella – 70% Contaminated by Bacteria.
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