2008-01-20 17:52:52 UTC
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome
The production of one of Italy's best known exports, mozzarella, is
under threat from an infection spreading through herds of water
The Italian government has set up an emergency commission to try and
stop the spread of the disease, which affects milk production.
The plains of Campania, around Naples, are home to large buffalo
As much as 30% of the herd who live in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius
are reported to be infected.
The area is the exalted home of mozzarella di bufala: not only an
essential part of the Italian diet, but one of Italy's most important
But the Neapolitan farmers who make this famous milky cheese are
facing a crisis.
In the next two months, the Italian government will start the
slaughter of 32,000 buffalo, infected with Brucellosis - a contagious
bacterial disease that in livestock leads to abortion, infertility and
reduced milk production.
It can be transmitted through food to humans, causing severe
intermittent fever - though the milk which produces the cheese is
perfectly safe when it is pasteurised.
Brucellosis has been present in the herd for 10 years.
But the Italian papers say the local vets who are supposed to test and
put down infected animals have been intimidated by the local mafia -
the Camorra - who also control some of the farms.
Consequently, it is reported, the disease has been allowed to spread
to almost 30% of the herd.
Caserta, one of two key mozzarella-producing areas, is the worst
In the coming weeks, armed police will accompany government vets to
help with the cull.
They say every infected animal destroyed will be burnt - and it is
estimated the cost to the Italian government will be 66m euros ($97m;
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/17 15:22:31 GMT