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Suspected Fraud Hits Major Israeli Supermarkets

Oct. 2, 2012
Charlie Higgins

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Rami Levy owns one of the super­mar­ket chains where the sus­pected fraud­u­lent prod­ucts were being sold.

Israeli super­mar­ket chains Rami Levy and Home Center have removed thou­sands of olive oil prod­ucts from their shelves fol­low­ing a series of fac­tory raids. Investigators sus­pect that indus­trial lam­pante” grade oil, unfit for human con­sump­tion, was being sold as olive oil.

Suspicions were first raised sev­eral weeks ago, when the Israeli Agriculture Ministry received tips from var­i­ous sources indi­cat­ing fraud­u­lent activ­i­ties at two fac­to­ries in north­ern Israel, accord­ing to Haaretz. The excep­tion­ally low cost of the oils — NIS 19.99 ($5.15) for a 750-mil­li­liter bot­tle of olive oil com­pared to the nor­mal range of NIS 35 ($9.02) to NIS 50 ($12.88) — also raised sus­pi­cion.

The Agriculture Ministry’s Flora and Fauna Supervision Unit, in coor­di­na­tion with the Health Ministry, con­ducted the raids, which led to the con­fis­ca­tion of 25 tons of oil. The fac­to­ries, the Health Ministry said, were licensed to fil­ter olive oil but not to refine it, and the owner of the two loca­tions had already been dis­qual­i­fied from sell­ing olive oil due to pre­vi­ous vio­la­tions.

Since the oil was imported into Israel as unfit for human con­sump­tion, it did not undergo any inspec­tion by the Health Ministry at the port. It under­went chem­i­cal pro­cess­ing, after which it was sold as edi­ble,” inves­ti­ga­tors told sources.

The seized oil will be tested in gov­ern­ment labs to deter­mine whether or not it meets Israeli man­u­fac­tur­ing stan­dards. Confirmed vio­la­tions of health stan­dards would result in legal action.

The Israeli Customs Directorate was also noti­fied for pos­si­ble cus­toms fraud. According to Israeli law, tar­iffs are not required to import oil used for light­ing lamps as opposed to edi­ble oils. Originating in Spain and Greece, the imported oils in ques­tion were processed in the fac­to­ries in Israel and sold under four or five brand names.

The Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma chain was quick to respond to the recent alle­ga­tions. Owner Rami Levy said they had received the nec­es­sary per­mits required to sell the oils, includ­ing a man­u­fac­tur­ing per­mit from the Health Ministry, the seal of the Israel Olive Oil Board, the ISO 9001 stan­dard and kashrut cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

In a con­ver­sa­tion I had with the man­u­fac­turer, he claimed that the alle­ga­tions were not accu­rate,” Levy told Haaretz. The Health Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry did not con­tact me about the mat­ter, but to be on the safe side, I am remov­ing the prod­ucts under dis­cus­sion from the shelves until the mat­ter has been resolved.”



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