Tainted milk investigation in Udine leads to five arrests

Probe claims farmers and consortium let toxic milk go to market

Tainted milk investigation in Udine leads to five arrests

Udine, June 20 - Food police on Thursday arrested the leader of a dairy consortium and four others in a toxic milk probe in Udine, a city on the Slovenian border in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG). The leader of the FVG regional Cospalat dairy consortium, Renato Zampa, is accused along with the others of conspiring to commercialise milk they knew was contaminated with aflatoxins, toxic fungi known to be a potent cause of liver cancer and stunted growth in children. Aflatoxins sometimes grow on rotting cereals and hay, and can contaminate cattle-feed. Investigators for the probe, which is coordinated by the Udine prosecutor's office, also detected the presence of antibiotics in some milk analyzed. Investigators believe the FVG Cospalat had milk tests falsified by an accomplice laboratory, knowingly diluted contaminated milk with normal milk. Investigators also believe FVG Cospalat allowed unauthorized dairies to provide milk for illicitly-made, quality-certified Montasio DOP cheese. Defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit commercial fraud, adulteration of foodstuffs and commercialisation of foodstuffs that are dangerous to health. Investigators are probing 24 people in the case, including 17 farmers - out of roughly 100 members of the consortium - accused of knowingly putting contaminated milk on the market. FVG Cospalat's chief was taken to jail and four others placed under house-arrest.One person was placed under movement restrictions, and a seventh is wanted, but remains at large.

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