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EU Begs Italy to Lift Powdered-Milk Cheese Ban


Hands stretch fresh mozzarella in a tank of warm water

When you think of mozzarella made in the terra madre, no doubt the words “Italian heritage,” “unwavering tradition,” and “uncomprising quality” come to mind. And of course, when we’re talking about DOP-regulated Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, we also think of fresh, rich buffalo milk: without one, you can’t have the other. But if the European Union had its say, powdered milk (shudder) would be the future of this signature Italian cheese.

In a move that Robert Moncalvo, the head of Italy’s largest farming lobby group, Coldiretti, calls the “umpteenth diktat from Europe,” the EU has requested that the Italian ministry of agriculture end the country’s 1974 ban on using powdered and condensed milk in dairy products. It seems the EU is more concerned with the the free movement of goods than the Italian way of life.

And if this wasn’t throwing down enough of a gauntlet, Moncalvo challenged the EU’s priorities: “The EU is uninterested and hesitates on the migrant emergency, but they use tricks and deception when it comes to lowering the bar on food quality.”

Obviously, Italians are not taking this perceived insult lightly. To many, it is a question of honor and integrity. Moncalvo even calls this latest salvo on traditional artisanal food production an “attack” on the Italian way of life. The worry is that the EU’s position will encourage some to take shortcuts when fresh milk is scarce (for example, during spring in the Roman countryside when ewes are pregnant), and that it will also lead to price undercutting by lower-cost competitors both within Italy and in other EU-member states.

Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, worries that acquiescence to the EU would cause grave harm to “Italy’s quality dairy sector, already crushed by too-low milk prices and the challenges facing those who farm in the mountains.” He’s calling on European cheesemakers to mobilize against the EU’s “absurd” position at its Cheese 2015 conference in Bra, Italy, this September.

Now who’s with him?

Johnisha Levi

Johnisha Levi is a Boston-area pastry cook and one of those very rare (think Pegasus) D.C. natives. If ithere's a documentary on food or true crime, chances are that she's seen it (or it's waiting in her Netflix queue). She's a culinary history nerd who is eager to spend her summer at culture learning more about cheese.