Health concerns over Italian mozzarella cheese resurfaced on Tuesday as more than 100 buffalo farms around Naples were quarantined amid fears of potential dioxin contamination, the government said.
"The 102 potentially contaminated buffalo farms were placed under sanitary quarantine," the health and agriculture ministries said in a joint statement.
Serious concerns over Italian mozzarella first emerged in mid-March when samples of the cheese, made from buffalo milk, were found to have raised levels of dioxin, which increases the likelihood of cancer.
A total of 83 buffalo farms in the southern region were quarantined then. Of those, 20 were found to have higher than approved dioxin levels.
A crisis was averted then after Italy recalled the contaminated mozzarella and the European Commission declared itself satisfied and France lifted restrictions it had already put in place.
Nevertheless, Singapore subsequently joined Japan and South Korea in banning Italian mozzarella sales as a precautionary measure.
Tuesday's latest data showed that of 271 samples of buffalo milk taken from 173 makers of mozzarella cheese in the southern Naples, Caserta and Avellino provinces, 14.4 percent did not conform to the advised European Union limits for dioxin.
Milk samples from the neighbouring Benevento and Salerno provinces were found to conform with EU regulations, the statement added.
Naples and the surrounding Campania region is still struggling to recover from the crisis provoked by thousands of tonnes of uncollected rubbish.
However, Laetitia Luiga, a chemical engineer working for one cheesemaker in the region, told AFP the possibility the higher dioxin levels were produced by people burning their household rubbish was remote.
Most of the buffaloes they used were raised in paddocks and 98 percent of them were outside the crisis zone created by the build-up of rubbish, she said.
An EU source said Tuesday that the European Commission is poised to sue Italy before an EU court for failing to resolve its rubbish collection crisis in the Naples region.
The Commission will decide in a meeting next Tuesday whether to ask the European Court of Justice to order Italian authorities to take action or face fines, the source said.