Olive Oil - © saucefinefoods.com

Sunday Musings: European Olive Oil Fakers Busted!

If you thought that Italian and Spanish police were not doing their job to beat food fraud, this post will convince you otherwise! Law enforcement officials recently shut down an olive oil counterfieting ring that was selling oceans of fake olio…

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - © germanorestaurant.com

None other than The New York Times reports that Spanish and Italian police, working together, have busted a major olive oil counterfeiting ring operating in both countries.

Oceans of olio

Police told reporters more than 68,000 gal. / 260,000 L of adulterated, low grade olive oil was seized in coordinated raids. The authorities also confiscated 91,000 Euros / (US)$98,000 in cash and billing records. Those records will also help investigators determine exactly how much bad oil was sold, and track down where it went. And, hopefully, get it off the market.

A common practice

“Unfortunately, the faking of extra virgin olive oil is a common practice, which is why the fight against it is a law enforcement priority — especially in production countries,” Europol, the European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation, said in a statement.

What they were selling

Police say the fraudsters were palming off the cheapest grade of olive oil – lampante – as ‘Extra Virgin’. The stuff is described as, “terrible quality […] because of its high level of acidity and its unpleasant flavor and smell.”

Officers who took part in the raids also collected samples of an as-yet-unidentified liquid thought to have been used to ‘adulterate’ the low-grade oil.

“This illegal practice can not only cause a public health risk, but also undermine consumer trust and thus have further economic repercussions,” the Europol statement said.

Authorities ARE doing their job

Maybe investigators are keeping a low profile as a strategy in their war on food fraud. Makes sense. And/or maybe the enforcement successes that have been achieved have been played down so as not to exacerbate the aforementioned ‘consumer trust’ issues.

Nevertheless, the Olive Oil Times reported 18 months ago that, “2.3 million liters of olive oil [seized by the authorities up to that date], ready to be introduced into the market, violated European and Italian laws governing olive oil quality, bottling and commercialization.”

You can protect yourself

In the past, I’ve posted guidelines you can use to protect yourself from olive oil fraud. The most important one is: Only buy olive oil that says ‘Produced in Italy’ on the label. The stuff that’s labelled ‘Packaged in Italy’ is probably bogus. And that’s a lot of the olive oils you’ll find in your local supermarket.

Also, cheap ‘Extra Virgin’ olive oil probably isn’t really ‘Extra Virgin’. Simply mislabelling regular-grade or Virgin oil as ‘Extra Virgin’ is one of the biggest, and easiest-to-perform frauds in the oil business. And just adding that one little word, ‘Extra’, can boost the price by 50 to 100 percent! Rule of thumb: You probably aren’t getting real Extra Virgin Olive Oil if you’re buying it in any container larger than 1 litre.

Have you been cheated by the international Counterfeit Olive Oil industry?

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.