Mozzarella unsuitable for vegetarians or as a hasty starter. 25 products compared to choose well

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There are many differences between the mozzarellas on the market. In language understandable only (and not even always) to experts in the field, labels ‘hide’ technical aspects of importance in the quality of the finished product. In many cases, by the way, they are also unsuitable for vegetarians. Our market survey provides an overview of supply and a thoughtful guide to informed purchasing.

Market survey. Everli’s distorted prices

In total , we examined 25 mozzarellas, 3 of them sliced and 2 organic. Sampling was conducted in November 2020 on the food ecommerce sites Everli and EasyCoop, as well as in some stores to track down references that were unavailable online. Includes a random selection of the most popular products in supermarkets and discount stores.

Before delving into the result of the market survey, it is necessary to warn online shoppers about the continuation of illegal practices on the food ecommerce platform Everli (formerly ‘Supermarket24‘). Lack of consumer information prescribed by reg. EU 1169/11 (Article 14), but prices per unit (1 kg) of product, instead prescribed by the Consumer Code (Legislative Decree 206/05), are also distorted. The matter will be investigated and reported to the Antitrust Authority, which has already received two reports on the operator in question.

Mozzarella, the parameters of the comparison

The comparison evaluates the elements that any attentive consumAtor can independently verify on the labels of prepacked mozzarella:

– price,

– origin of milk,

– method of production,

– addition of preservatives.

Price

In food spending, price should have a well-thought-out consideration. Deals below cost or at ‘unmatched’ prices are often a symptom of the distributor’s unfair trade practices against the manufacturer, but also of the use of less valuable ingredients and technologies. A trade-off that obviously also affects the quality of the food.

For the mozzarellas under consideration, the price ranges from 4.20 to 13.95 euros/kg. A very wide range, where ‘first price’ mozzarellas-from discount stores and pre-sliced, again from foreign raw materials (milk or frozen curds?)-cost 1/3 as much as the finest ones. Great variability, moreover, also characterizes mozzarellas that are apparently equivalent.

Origin of milk, a serious wrongdoing

The origin of the milk is foreign in 8 cases. In those already sliced (Carrefour, Consilia, Gran Casale) and in 5 other mozzarellas (Carrefour classic, Land by Eurospin, Alival, Prealpi, Milbona). To verify the origin of milk, simply read the label carefully. In fact, the information is now mandatory as early as 2017, albeit also allowed in very loose terms (e.g., ‘EU’ or ‘non-EU’). Those who use Italian milk in any case are wont to give ample evidence of this.

The words ‘Made in Italy,’ it should be noted, does not in itself mean that the ingredients are Italian, but only that the last substantial processing took place in Italy (see previous article). And the malfeasance of ‘Alival Formaggi Italiani,’ which emphatically boasts on the label front that it is‘Produced in Italy,’ is serious. With the addition of a tricolor composed of the images of basil, mozzarella and tomato. Without bringing back into the same field of view-as prescribed by reg. EU 2018/775 – news of the ‘EU’ origin of milk (or a frozen curd), reserved for the back of the package.

Alival illicit

Production method

In the production of mozzarella, curd is obtained by different methods, as we have seen.

Serum grafting (or lactografting) is the method of tradition. This practice-common in buffalo mozzarella-is adopted, in the sample examined, only for Granarolo’s‘Taste of a Time‘ mozzarella. Which is distinguished, among other things, by the use of Italian A2 milk (i.e., containing only the A2 variant of beta-casein), to which the scientific literature attributes certain health benefits (see previous article).

E330, rapid coagulation to save money

Citric acid (E330) is added in milk processing for the purpose of speeding up clot formation time, which saves a great deal of time. A ‘technological shortcut’ to natural fermentation that nevertheless-in blocking the transformation of lactose into lactic acid-contributes to reduced digestibility of the food.

The additive E330 is used as an ‘acidifying additive’ in 10 of the 25 products examined.

Mozzarella cheese unsuitable for vegetarians

Rennet (or rennet ) is another traditional ingredient in the production of mozzarella and cheese in general. When added to milk, it activates the enzymatic processes that enable curd formation.

In the absence of different specifications (vegetable or microbial rennet), this ingredient has animal origin. It is in fact obtained from stomach cells of young ruminants because of its high levels of chymosin (the enzyme responsible for digesting breast milk). The vegetarian diet is therefore incompatible with the consumption of much of the mozzarella cheese on the market.

Alternatives to animal rennet

Alternatives to animal rennet that are compatible with a vegetarian diet exist and are also quite common. The most popular veg substitute is microbial rennet, often combined with lactic acid cultures and organic acids (citric acid or lactic acid).

In the 25 mozzarellas examined, the situation is as follows:

– 11 contain animal rennet, ‘enhanced’ by the addition of milk enzymes,

– 4 contain animal rennet and the additive E330: Bianca Bontà, Brimi, Prealpi (the only one to add a preservative) and the sliced Gran Casale (which also adds lactic ferments),

– 5 contain microbial rennet. In 3 cases the additive E330 is also used, (Milbona, Granarolo Alta Qualità, Carrefour Classic). In the remaining 2, however, additional milk enzymes are used: this is the case with two sliced mozzarellas made with German and EU milk (Carrefour Sliced Mozzarella, Consilia knowing how to choose perfect slices).

– 3 make exclusive use of the additive E330 (Galbani Santa Lucia, Alival, Invernizzi Mozarì)

– 1 employs only milk enzymes (Vallelata)

– 1 resorts to lactografting (the aforementioned‘Taste of yesteryear’ from Granarolo).

The nutritional profiles of mozzarella cheese

The nutritional profiles of the 25 mozzarellas examined varied substantially. In fact, the values per 100 grams of product fluctuate as follows:

– Energy (kcal), 214 to 319 kCal,

– fat, from 15.8 to 24 grams,

– Saturated fat, 10 to 16 g,

– Carbohydrates from 0.4 to 2.7 g,

– Of which sugars from 0 to 1.60 g,

– 15.2 to 25 g/100g protein.

Salt deserves a reminder. The sample ranges from a minimum of 0.40 to 1.50 g/100g. The maximum detected value occupies a good portion of the recommended maximum daily threshold, which amounts to

– 5 grams/day, with a goal of halving it, according to WHO and CraNut’s Healthy Eating Guidelines,

– 6 grams/day, according to the milder measure (Reference Intakes, AR) defined in EU Regulation 1169/11.

This table details all the data for the 25 mozzarellas examined.

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".