Four people have been arrested and thousands of wheels of Parmesan cheese seized by police after a conspiracy to falsify documents and cover up the use of toxic milk was uncovered in Italy this week.
According to The Local, the cheese had been made with milk containing aflatoxin, a naturally occurring carcinogen that is commonly found in crops grown during droughts and in the milk of cows that eat moldy food. Small amounts are not harmful to adults, but the milk used to produce the Parmesan had twice the level of aflatoxin allowed by E.U. health codes. Tests had been conducted on the cheese, but the results had been altered to cover up the excessive aflatoxin levels, police say.
Suspicious prosecutors privately ordered another set of tests, which revealed both the toxin and the coverup. The head of agricutural nutrition for the city of Parma was among the four people arrested so far in conjunction with the toxic cheese. Three cheese producers were also arrested, and up to 60 more people are under investigation.
In large amounts, aflatoxin can cause liver problems including cirrhosis and even cancer. Children are more susceptible to it than adults, and can suffer delayed development and stunted growth from excessive consumption.