Reports that the European Commission is trying to force Italy to allow mozzarella to be made from powdered milk are incorrect.
Indeed, the reverse is the case – EU rules prohibit cheese made from powdered milk being sold anywhere in Europe as mozzarella, or indeed as gorgonzola, parmigiano reggiano or provolone.
These and other Italian cheeses have their production methods and ingredients protected from cheap imitations by EU food quality schemes (PDO: protection of designations of origin; PGI: geographical indications and TSG: traditional speciality guaranteed).
These food quality schemes, which also cover a number of UK products – see this database – are a way of protecting Europe’s cultural heritage and there are no plans to water them down.
So what’s the fuss about?
Italy currently has a blanket ban on condensed and powdered milk being used in any dairy products, though it allows their use in other categories of food products –pastries, ice-creams, etc.
In May 2015, the European Commission sought clarification over this, as it considers that the ban on using dehydrated milk in all dairy products could hamper the free movement of goods within the EU single market.
The Italian dairy industry itself alleges that the ban affects its competitiveness on an open European market because it cannot use cheaper raw material.
In addition, the ban could unfairly deprive suppliers of dehydrated milk products of opportunities to export to producers of dairy products in Italy.
The Commission believes the objective of promoting quality Italian produce could be achieved through clear labelling informing shoppers if a product is made with powdered or fresh milk. Consumers could then choose on an informed basis.
But again, this is only about standard products which in other Member States are sometimes made from dehydrated milk. It would not change anything with regard to the justly famous Italian cheeses that most UK news stories inaccurately fixed upon. Their age-old recipes are safe.
An erroneous report appeared in the Daily Telegraph (Italy: EU request for powdered milk in mozzarella is ‘attack’ on cultural heritage) on 29 June.
The Times – its ” Brussels is whey out of order, say cheesemakers” headline deserves a hat tip from pun admirers – and the Financial Times did mention that some Italian cheeses were protected by quality schemes, but their reports still referred to mozzarella in ways implying that it would be affected by any change to allow dehydrated milk in cheese.
Italy’s own Il Sole 24 Ore meanwhile described the controversy as “a tempest in teacup”