You may call pizza any thick mass of dough with added ordinary cheese and, a crime for any real pizza connoisseur, ketchup. But real pizza is made with mozzarella cheese, a delicacy made from the fat rich water buffalo milk.
Now, the Italian production of mozzarella is threatened by a deadly disease spreading through its herds of water buffalo. An emergency commission is attempting to stop the spread of the disease, which plummets the buffalo milk production.
The region of Campania, around Naples, hosts large buffalo herds, but up to 30% of them are now reported to be infected. This is the home of mozzarella di bufala, an essential pizza ingredient and also one of Italy's most recognizable export trademarks.
But the famous cheese is confronting a crisis: in two months the Italian government is going to sacrifice 32,000 buffaloes infected with Brucellosis (also called Bang's disease or bangs), caused by the highly infectious Brucella bacterium, that induces in livestock abortion, sterility and decreased milk production. Each infected buffalo will be burned and the action will cost to the Italian government about 66 million Euro ($97 million).
Humans can catch the infection as well, but pasteurized milk is perfectly safe. Brucellosis has been lingering in the area for 10 years, but local vets involved in stopping the epidemics might have been forced not to do it by the local mafia, the Camorra, who owns some of the farms, this explaining the spread to 30% of the herd.
Caserta, one of the most important places of mozzarella production, experiences the highest rates of infection.
"This will lead to a shortage of supply and speculation which will put prices up - mozzarella is not only a prime domestic product but it is also one of Italy's main exports. This means that price rises will also be felt overseas and production will be down as a result of the cull," Andrea Cozzolino, the Campania region's agriculture chief, said.