NEWS » Has your Olive Oil been doctored?

Has your Olive Oil been doctored?

Olive oil is a key ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. The best quality, extra virgin, which comes from the first press of olives, can cost between 30 – 40 percent more than its lower quality. An Oil to be labelled extra virgin should meet some EU quality criteria, which take into account, for example, its degree of acidity.

 

In June 2015, “Il Test” magazine analysed 20 bottles of extra virgin olive oil and found that 9 oils did not meet the European extra virgin standards, due to various defects.

 

Seven well-known olive oil brands – Carapelli, Bertolli, Santa Sabina, Coricelli, Sasso, Primadonna and Antica Badia – are under exam by the anti-fraud police squad in Turin, because they might have been selling an inferior quality virgin olive oil as "extra virgin" olive oil.  The companies involved all denied the allegations, as was reported by the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”.

 

The companies might be charged with the crime of commercial fraud, for which, according to Article 515 of the Criminal Code, are foreseen two years' imprisonment and a fine of up to approximately two thousand Euros (per product), after an immediate withdrawal of the products from the shelves of Italian and European supermarkets (there is a traceability system which should allow the immediate restitution).

 

One of the reasons which might have forced the companies to alter the composition of standard extra virgin olive oil could have been the terrible olive harvest of 2014 (bad weather, frosts during flowering, the olive tree parasites, etc.), in which Italy has collected only 230-240 thousand tons of olives, compared to 470 to 500 thousand tons collected on average every year. An extremely poor production which has endangered Italy's second place in the world olive oil production. This has prompted Italy, which is already the world's largest importer of olives (about 700,000 tons), to increase the demands of batches of olives from abroad, not of great quality, and not able to guarantee the quality level of extra virgin olive oil. 

 

“Codacons” encouraged costumers who consumed olive oil from one of the brands affected by the investigation, to assert their rights and seek compensation for up to 5 thousand Euros.

 

Extra virgin oil has a distinct taste, colour and smell that differentiates it from its cheaper counterparts, but many consumers are unaware of what to look out for. Some producers use chemicals to cover up bad quality oils so that it becomes very difficult to spot fake extra virgin.  

 

“Coldiretti” warned costumers against too cheap extra virgin oil, as prices less than 7-6 euro per litre do not even cover production costs.

Giulia Lombardo

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