Mozzarella fraud laid bare by test

Two-thirds of supermarket pizzas, restaurant pizzas labelled as containing ‘buffalo mozzarella’ have been shown to contain mozzarella made wholly or partially from cow’s milk, after a test was developed to distinguish between the two.

Using a mass spectrometry test on the products, scientists at the Quadram Institute in Norwich found a significant number of products ‘containing’ buffalo mozzarella as being mislabelled.

Buffalo milk commands a premium price compared with cow’s milk and is used to make mozzarella cheese. This makes it a target for fraudsters. The analytical test homes in on several distinctive ‘marker’ peptides that due to the amino acid sequence differences, are specifically characteristic of either buffalo or cow.

Professor Kate Kemsley, who led the research, said the test had raised concerns about the prevalence of species mislabelling. ‘ Consumers aren’t the only victims of this type of substitution’. she explained. ‘For most products, buffalo mozzarella is added as discrete pieces, so if it contains milk from mixed animal sources, then the adulteration is likely to have happened earlier in the supply chain’, she concluded.