Anthropology of Food

Reflections on Tainted Mozzarella

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Today’s newspapers seem to be full of bad news about food–from Frankinanotechnology to tainted mozzarella. Usually, I welcome any kind of discussion that gets people thinking about their food. However, lately, I feel like people are just scared and misinformed by the media (imagine that). I am not sure how much reflection is really going on.

The case of mozzarella di bufala in the Campania region of Italy is very interesting. Perhaps you have been following the garbage scandals in Naples and now the tainted mozzarella scare. One of the first things that came to my mind as I read about refuse piling up in the streets of this southern city was people’s health. How long before the outbreak of diseases and the contamination of water? What also came out of this spotlight on the garbage scandal was the uncovering of numerous illegal dumping sites. The alarm bells began to ring in my head: in the areas surrounding almost all Italian cities there are numerous small illegal vegetable patches and fruit trees. How much of this illegal peri-urban agriculture has been contaminated by years of illegal dumping?

The focus on mozzarella has mainly been motivated by big economic interests and an international reputation that is at stake. What about the other agricultural activities that feed Naples? Mozzarella is likely just the tip of this edible iceberg.