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Thousands of toxic Parmesan wheels seized

Italian police have seized thousands of wheels of Parmesan, after milk used to produce the cheese was found to be contaminated.

Thousands of toxic Parmesan wheels seized
Four people have been arrested over the contaminated cheese. Parmesan photo: Shutterstock

Four people have been arrested in the northern city of Parma, after it emerged that tests that should have indicated the presence of a highly carcinogenic toxin were falsified, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported

The naturally occurring substance Aflatoxin appears in crops in condition of drought, and in the milk of cows that have eaten mouldy grain.

In chronic levels the chemical can causes cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

While adults generally have a high tolerance for aflatoxins, in 2003, 120 people died in Kenya after eating maize containing very high levels of contamination.

Children are known to be particularly affected by aflatoxin and it can lead to stunted growth and delayed development.

Special tests ordered by prosecutors, and carried out privately, showed that the previous checks had been falsified to cover up the toxin, police said.

Although the EU says small amounts, of up to 0.05 mg per litre, can be tolerated safely, the milk contained twice that amount, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported. 

The city’s head of agricultural nutrition was among those arrested, alongside three producers.

They are accused of conspiracy to commit fraud in the marketing of toxic food and attempted fraud in milk quality. More than 60 others are under investigation.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said the investigation shows the effectiveness of food controls in Italy. "The number of cases is limited” she said, and consumers have no need to be worried. 

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FOOTBALL

Parma have five-point match-fix penalty lifted

Parma's five-point penalty, which was imposed as punishment in a match-fix row which sealed their promotion to Serie A, was lifted on appeal by the Italian football federation (FIGC) on Thursday.

Parma have five-point match-fix penalty lifted
Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Striker Emanuele Calaio's two-year ban, which was imposed as part of the same investigation, has also been reduced to four months.

Parma will have to pay a €20,000 fine while Calaio was fined €30,000 but will be eligible to play again on January 1st next year.

A 2-0 win at Spezia on May 18th saw two-time UEFA Cup winners Parma promoted to the top division just three years after a financial meltdown led to relegation from Serie A and rebirth in the semi-professional Serie D, Italian football's fourth tier.

Calaio, 36, was initially banned for two years for match-fixing after he sent text messages to a former team-mate that appeared to ask Spezia players not to try too hard.

Spezia fans reacted furiously to their team's display after the match, directing particular anger toward former Italian international and ex-Parma player Alberto Gilardino, who smashed a penalty for Spezia high and wide with the hosts still only a goal down.