NAPLES, Italy — Italian food inspectors quarantined water buffalo herds in the Naples region after tests of their milk and the famed mozzarella di bufala cheese the milk produces tested positive for chemicals, according to Italian news reports.

Officials quarantined herds at 66 buffalo farms in the Campania region of southern Italy because of high levels of dioxin found in the milk used to make the soft cheese, according to the ANSA news agency.

Dioxin is a highly toxic substance. Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds are released into the environment from several sources, including combustion, metal processing and chemical manufacturing and processing, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The most toxic have been linked to cancer.

An Italian environmental official, quoted by one news agency, said the “high rate of dioxin is most likely linked to what the buffaloes ate” and that the buffalo “grazed in areas where we know that toxic waste has been dumped in recent years.”

Several news reports state that companies, often controlled by Camorra, the local mafia, circumvent trash disposal regulations and fees by dumping illegally, affecting land and water sources.

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