The Italian Almanac



Muslims can now feast on one of Italy's best-loved gastronomic delights, mozzarella, without any fear they are breaking Islamic Law. For the first time a producer of the famous cheese from Campania, the La Baronia company based at Castel di Sasso near Caserta, has won certification that its mozzarella is halal - made in accordance with the dictums of Sharia.

Italy's Zayd Ibn Thabit Islamic Culture Association and food-certification agency TUV gave the endorsement in an initiative promoted by the 'Consorzio di Tutela della Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP', the consortium that ensures the cheese is made according to time-honoured tradition. ''This initiative is a sign of the attention companies and public institutions are devoting to religious miniroties,'' said Abdallah Massimo Cozzolino, an imam at Naples Mosque and the president of the Zayd Ibn Thabit Islamic Culture Association. ''Finally it will be possible to find halal products on the supermarket shelves and this is a step forward for integration too''.

In the case of mozzarella, the difference between halal and non halal, or haraam, does not lie in the ingredients, but in the way the cheese is produced. Alcohol-based chemicals, for example, must not be used in the cleaning of equipment and the end product must carry the date it was produced as well as its use-by date. ''The crucial development here is that the Islamic community has been able to verify the procedures are correct and that there are no substances that, even accidentally, could render the product illegal for Islam,'' Cozzolino said.

By winning halal certification, La Baronia is opening the door to a massive market and the mozzarella consortium is encouraging other members to follow suit. There are estimated to be at least 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide, with the market for halal products four-times bigger than that for organic food, according to the consortium. Some countries even make halal certification a condition for the importation of food items.

A mozzarella carrying the consortium's label is guaranteed to contain not a drop of cow milk and be produced according to traditional methods.