China’s quality watchdog, Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), has asked its local quarantine and inspection organs to carefully scrutinize the olive oil imports from Italy. It has urged Chinese importers to pay more attention to the quality of the Italian olive oil they are importing.

This unexpected action comes after reports in China that four out of five bottles of olive oil from Italy were adulterated with inferior quality oil from other countries. Following these reports, the AQSIQ has requested the Italian embassy to look into the truth of this matter and provide it more specific information. The AQSIQ has also urged Italy to further improve the quality control and management of its olive oil exports to China.

The problem came to light in December when the La Repubblica newspaper published the results of a probe into Italy’s olive oil exports and investigation into the conduct of 13 unnamed Italian olive oil exporters. This led to speculation that about 80 percent of China’s olive oil imports carrying the label “Made in Italy” were actually mixed with lower qualities of olive oil from Spain, Greece and Tunisia.

Italy exports 250,000 metric tons of olive oil each year, while it imports nearly double of that volume. Last year Italy’s olive oil imports showed an increase of nearly 100,000 tons, which led the authorities to investigate where such large quantities of imports ended up. Statistics reveal that nearly 37.5 percent of China’s olive oil imports come from Italy, which makes Italy the second largest olive oil exporter to China after Spain.

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