About 22 tons of olive oil from Apulia and Greece fraudulently sold as extra virgin olive oil with the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Toscano have been seized and forty-seven millers, bottlers and traders in the provinces of Grosseto, Florence, Arezzo, Siena and Foggia are under investigation for commercial fraud.
The operation was carried out by more than one hundred State Forestry Corps officers, the Agrifood and Forestry Nucleus (NAF) of Rome and the Central Inspectorate for the protection of quality and fraud prevention of food product (ICQRF) of the territorial offices of Tuscany and Umbria, with the assistance of the Special Nucleus for Technological Frauds of Financial Police in Rome.
The investigations began last year and were carried out through documentary searches, depositions of persons of interest, examinations and interrogations of the National Agricultural Information System0. DNA analysis identified the origin of the olive oil, the Grosseto prosecutor, Raffaella Capasso, explained. Used only recently in agri-food investigations, the investigative method allows for the unequivocal characterization of the different varieties of olives which composed the olive oil.
The probe started with the examination of activities by an alleged fraudster who purchased Greek olive oil that was then sold as Italian or IGP Toscano. According to the prosecutor, the criminal scheme was possible because of the complicity of mill owners that created false records.
They profited from the price of the IGP Toscano, which is higher than other Italian and EU olive oils, both within Italy and on foreign markets. During the checks, the officers seized a large amount of computer equipment and documents concerning the olive oil traceability.
“Every scam relating to food products brought to light is a success that brings justice to the reputation of Made in Italy and producers who work with dedication and honesty,” said the president of the Agriculture Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Luca Sani.
“Just recently the Comagri (the Agriculture Committee) intervened on the issue of olive oil fraud with its opinion, which aims to strengthen the law enforcement tools used by protection bodies,” he added.
“The IGP Toscano has a name and credibility to defend at the national and international level,” said the president of the Consortium for the protection of Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, Fabrizio Filippi. “The Consortium is always alert with regard to potential irregularities and we have now full confidence in the judiciary, for the benefit of honest and sound companies in Tuscany.”