Massive Fake Olive Oil Empire Created By None Other Than The Mob
Olive oil is a $1.5 billion dollar industry in just the United States alone, according to Tom Mueller, an investigative journalist who wrote an eye-opening book exposing fake olive oil entitled: Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold is diluted and cut with cheaper oils according to Mueller.
“You in many cases are getting lower grade olive oil that has been blended with some good extra virgin olive oil…you’re sometimes getting deodorized oil,” Mueller said. “They blend it with some oil that has some character to give it a little color, a little flavor…and they sell that as extra virgin. It’s illegal – it happens all the time.”
Various cultures of the world highly value olive oil as a food and as a medicine. As an example, Mediterranean culture has viewed the oil as a form of medicine for over 2,000 years.
The most sought type of olive oil is “extra virgin.”
The Olive Oil Times defines extra virgin as:
“In chemical terms extra virgin olive oil is described as having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C),” the publication wrote.
The “extra-virgin” oil is diluted with cheaper olive oils or other vegetable oils. In some cases, lampante, or “lamp oil,” which is made from spoiled olives fallen from trees, is used, even though it can’t legally be sold as food. One fraud ring is accused of coloring low-grade soy oil and canola oil with industrial chlorophyll, and flavoring it with beta-carotene, NPR reported.
So why would the mafia choose to smuggle and sell illicitly fake olive oil?
An olive oil fraud investigator told Muller: “Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks.”
He’s right, it’s a huge international business, Americans alone spend approximately $700 million on olive oil annually. Now if 70-80% of that is fake and dissolved with other less expensive oils you can see the potential for profit in producing fraudulent olive oil.
“The enormous popularity of the “Made in Italy” label worldwide makes it an appetizing target for food fraudsters, who earn an estimated €60 billion a year selling counterfeit or adulterated faux-Italian foods. In some of these crimes, mafia syndicates and other criminal networks sell substandard or unsafe products at huge profits.” – Tom Mueller (Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil)
Historically, olive oil has been one of the most impure products in Europe and the fraud continues. In the past, olive oil fraudsters used to cut the oil with lard.
In 2010 researchers at UC Davis conducted two studies and tested a total of 186 extra-virgin olive oil samples which included both imported and domestic products using standards established by the International Olive Council (IOC), as well as olive oil analysis used in Germany and Australia.
The study concluded that 69 percent of imported and 10 percent of California-based olive oil labeled extra-virgin did not pass International Olive Council (IOC) and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for being extra-virgin olive oil.
“More than two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren’t what they claim to be, according to a report published by researchers at UC Davis.”
On a larger scale, a CBS News 60 Minutes segment on mafia involvement in Italian agriculture last year suggested that as much as 80% of olive oils are faked in the U.S.
“Mafia copies of fine olive oil, wine and cheese have fueled an explosion of food crime in Italy,” said CBS News correspondent, Bill Whitaker.
Then Mueller told CBS News correspondent Bill Whittaker that “up around 75 to 80 percent, easily” of extra-virgin olive oils sold in the United States are “fraudulent.”
So what cheaper oils do olive oil fraudsters use instead of olives?
Still today olive oil fraud remains a major international problem.
Just last year a U.S. House of Representatives paper recommen
“Some products labeled as olive oil may contain seed oil, which poses a serious health risk to consumers who are allergic to seed oil,” the report stated.
The specialists from the Italian customs agency investigated 20 brands and tested them in a laboratory…
They discovered that 9 brands were of lower quality.
Those brands included:
Bertolli, Santa Sabina, Primadonna, Antica Badia, Eurospin, Carapelli, Coricelli and Sasso, the Telegraph reported at the time.
Some of the supposedly trustworthy brands include: Corto Olive, Ottavio, Omaggio, Bariani Olive Oil, Lucini, Kirkland Organic (Costco), Lucero, Olea Estates, McEvoy Ranch Organic, Cobram Estate and California Olive Ranch.
So how else can you as a consumer of olive oil be sure you are getting authentic “extra virgin” olive oil and not fake olive oil? An app for your phone of course!
A smartphone app called “Reliability” released earlier this year seeks to combat im-pastas. You simply scan the product’s barcode to see if the supplier is real and of Italian origin. The app will also tell shoppers how the item was made, according to The Local.
However, the app is new and in order to be featured on the app, Italian manufacturers need to sign up for it. The company is still working on developing its database. Stay tuned, there are more ways to make sure you’re getting real olive oil.
This article (Massive Fake Olive Oil Empire Created By None Other Than the Mob) appeared first on Natural Blaze and can be shared with this message, bio and links intact.
Aaron Kesel goes by AK writes for Natural Blaze & Activist Post, and is the Director of content for Coinivore. He is an independent journalist and researcher you can check out more of his work on Steemit. Find Aaron on Twitter.