The cheese factory in Woringen, Bavaria, is currently being investigated, though regional police would neither confirm or deny reports that the dairy reprocessed rotten cheese from Italy for resale as “fresh” cheese products.
The owner of the Woringen company, Manfred Herrmann, told the Associated Press that he had rented a production hall to an Italian company that made cheese spreads, and that the facility had been checked regularly.
On Friday, the Italian Health Ministry informed the EU about the scandal, saying that some 40 Italian, German, Austrian and British dairies reworked out-of-date cheese using four companies headed by a Sicilian businessman.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that the four companies – three based in Italy and one in Germany – achieved turnover of some 10 million euros ($15.6 million) through the scam.
According to the Italian ministry’s probe, some of the rotten cheese was contaminated with mice droppings and worms, as well as residue from plastic wrapping and ink labels. Instead of being destroyed or used in the production of animal feed, it was reprocessed into products such as mozzarella, gorgonzola and cheese spreads, and sold in supermarkets across Europe.
The Rome daily reported that police arrested three people for fraud in March 2007, while a dozen more suspects are still under investigation. Italian authorities first began their probe two years ago. German officials first learned of the scandal via media reports, according to German public broadcaster, ARD.