A dioxin with my Italian mozzarella, please

Article published on March 31, 2008
Article published on March 31, 2008
On 28 March the EU withdrew a ban on the Italian cheese after regulations found they contained more dioxins than usual. French sales were halted temporarily – we speak to an Italian cheese-seller in Paris

‘I love mozzarella. It changed my life when I moved to Paris in 1998.’ Antonio Cristófano, a 48-year-old Neapolitan, heads Marechiaro, a company which sells Italian food in France and which lived through a boom of buffalo mozzarella made in Europe.

What do you think about the latest warning from the European commission, especially after the waste crisis in Naples at the end of January, when the EU gave Italy one month to resolve its garbage situation?

It all began with the decision which was taken on 24 March by South Korea and Japan, who blocked imports of the cheese. The real reason for this is not because of dioxins or quarantine, but because they want to produce it themselves. In any case, we insist there is no cause for panic: even if there were more dioxins in the cheese than normal, you’d have to eat kilos of it to fall ill (two kilos according to the French government, who backtracked on their boycott on the same day, 28 March).

Could the production process of buffalo milk in Campania be improved?

Yes, I think so. You could improve the quality of the hay given to the animal. And I think there is a problem with everything we pull out of the ground and sea - salmon, for example.

Will the security for mozzarella production change according to the location?

Buffalo milk comes from the lower Lazio region in central Italy, a zone which is generally considered risk-free. But come on; the milk from Caserta in Campania hardly poses a grave problem.

Do you fear a drop in sales?

I haven’t received any order cancellations yet. It is too early to judge the impact of the polemic. We’ll see what will have to be done: we just managed to get a new store for the mozzarella we sell, which represents between 20 to 30% of our income. In any case, I have confident in the product – it’s just too good.