Photo: Corpo Forestale dello Stato

A mas­sive fraud was unmasked between Brindisi and Bari, Italy by the State Forestry Corps, and the District Anti-​Mafia Directorate (DDA) of Bari, which dis­cov­ered that 7,000 tons of olive oil sold as ‘100% Italian’ extra vir­gin olive oil were actu­ally blended oils from non-​EU coun­tries such as Syria, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia.

Six peo­ple were inves­ti­gated for com­mer­cial fraud and coun­ter­feit­ing geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions or des­ig­na­tions of ori­gin of agri­cul­tural food prod­ucts. The checks cov­ered a dozen com­pa­nies in Apulia (in Fasano, Grumo Appula and Monopoli) and one cer­ti­fi­ca­tion lab­o­ra­tory.

The oper­a­tion of the State Forestry Corps demon­strates the effec­tive­ness of our sys­tem of inves­ti­ga­tion, that we have rein­forced in all steps of the sup­ply chain.- Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina

The oil was sold on the Italian and inter­na­tional mar­kets, in US and Japan, with the state­ment ‘100 per­cent Italian’ on the label for an illicit turnover esti­mated to be in the “tens of mil­lions of euros,” accord­ing to the Forestry Corps.

The inves­ti­ga­tion by the DDA in Bari was launched fol­low­ing the poor 2014 har­vest and the oppor­tu­nity the lim­ited sup­ply of Italian olive oils pre­sented for unlaw­ful trade.

Investigators at the Agrifood and Forestry Nucleus (NAF) in Rome, spe­cial­ized in the fight against food fraud, turned to the Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources (CNR-​IBBR) of Perugia.

CNR-​IBBR Researcher Luciana Baldoni

The research team, led by Luciana Baldoni, estab­lished the geo­graph­i­cal ori­gin of the olive oil through mol­e­c­u­lar analy­sis made pos­si­ble through an inno­v­a­tive tech­nique of DNA extrac­tion.

The results of the analy­sis, crossed with those on trace­abil­ity derived from com­puter records, allowed inves­ti­ga­tors to ensure that the thou­sands of tons of olive oil were not Italian but obtained from non-​European olive vari­eties.

One hun­dred offi­cers and inves­ti­ga­tors were involved in inves­ti­ga­tions, blitzes, and seizures of sev­eral lots of coun­ter­feited olive oil.

“The oper­a­tion of the State Forestry Corps demon­strates the effec­tive­ness of our sys­tem of inves­ti­ga­tion, that we have rein­forced in all steps of the sup­ply chain,” the min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture and forestry, Maurizio Martina said.

“Who harms the strate­gic sec­tor of olive oil must be con­demned with the utmost strict­ness. It is impor­tant to pro­tect con­sumers and the thou­sands of hon­est com­pa­nies that con­tribute to the suc­cess of ‘Made in Italy’ in the world.”


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