‘Radioactive’ boars roaming northern Italy

Following the discovery of wild boars contaminated with nuclear radiation in the northern Italian Piedmont region earlier in the year, the Ministry of Health has found two more cases, this time near Trieste, over 500km away.

'Radioactive' boars roaming northern Italy
Wild boars contaminated with nuclear radiation are roaming northern Italy. Photo/Piedmontm.prinke/Flickr

Aris Prodani, a local MP for Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, requested the investigation following the discovery of 27 boars in Piedmont this March,  which were contaminated by radioactive isotope caesium-137, local newspaper Trieste All News reported.

Similar cases have also been reported in Austria and Bavaria, 

The Italian Ministry of Health have now confirmed that two of the boars examined by ARPA, the local Agency for the Protection of the Environment in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, contained over 600 becquerels, the unit for measuring radioactivity, per kilogram. This is the limit above which meat cannot legally be sold commercially. 

The Ministry of Health issued a statement saying that for any danger to be posed, 10-15kg of meat contaminated at a level of 5000bq/kg would have to be eaten annually, a situation they described as “decidedly improbable”. They said “the situation should not arouse excessive worry among the population."

According to ARPA, the contamination is most likely due to fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. "The Ministry has assured us that monitoring of radioactivity is constant, but when it comes to the health of our citizens, it is fundamental to keep our guard up," Prodani was quoted in Trieste All News as saying.

He added that the news should be "a cause for serious reflection on the part of local administrators, who only a few days ago said that nuclear energy was the only way businesses could obtain energy at low costs."

There are currently no nuclear power plants in operation in Italy, and a referendum following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 led to the cancellation of plans for any new nuclear reactors to be built, but it remains a topic of debate.

The boar enjoys high status in Italy, being both a luxury meat found in many butcher's shops, and the historic symbol for the city of Milan.

Wild boar hunting remains popular, though most hunts take place on private, members-only estates, and the animals are known to be dangerous and occasionally aggressive to humans, particularly when protecting piglets. Most deaths associated with boar-hunting, however, are caused by hunters accidentally shooting another person, and in 2010 an heir to one of Italy's oldest aristocratic families was killed in such an incident.

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OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.