Disease Imperils Mozzarella From Italy

Bacteria infects 30% of water buffalo herd responsible for famous cheese
By Will McCahill,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2008 7:34 PM CST
A bacterial infection is sweeping through the herd of water buffalo that produces Italy's famous mozzarella cheese, and 32,000 will be killed under a government plan.   (Archive Photos)
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(Newser) – A bacterial disease sweeping through the water buffalo whose milk is used to make mozzarella is threatening production of Italy's famous cheese, the BBC reports. As many as 30% of the buffalo in Campania, near Naples, are infected with brucellosis, which leads to reduced milk production and infertility. Italy's government plans to destroy 32,000 buffalo in the next two months.

Italian papers report that, though the disease has been present in the herd for a decade, local veterinarians have been scared off by local mafia—who control some of the herd—in attempts to put down infected animals. Police will escort vets during the coming cull, which the government says will cost nearly $100 million.