The risk that counterfeiting olive oil could have been ‘decriminalized’ leaving offenders free to continue their activity has been averted.
In Montecitorio, Rome, the seat of the Chamber of Deputies, the Agriculture and Justice Joint Committees approved a decree issuing sanctions for counterfeiting of olive oil and its origin, with the proposal, unanimously approved, that gives the penal code prevalence over the administrative one.
The two Committees proposed the modification to a draft bill in light of numerous protests that rose against the attempt to lighten the penalties for those convicted of fraud. Now, Italian growers and producers hope the decree will be transposed by the government into law.
Commercial fraud in Italy like mislabeling olive oil as Italian when it has a different origin is a criminal offense condemned by articles 515 and 517 of penal code. But in the draft bill titled “Laying down rules on penalties for the violation of the EU Regulation No 29/2012,” offenders who “do not respect the obligation to indicate on the label and in the documents the designation of origin, as well as the uneven designation of origin also using signs, figures or other,” would have been punished only with an administrative fine.
The article goes on to introduce the administrative offense when information displayed on product packaging appears “in substitution of the designation of origin or that can evoke another geographical origin than indicated,” or, in other words, when information on the label misleads consumers into believing that the product is Italian when, in fact, it is not.
The first change clarifies that any administrative actions would not preclude penal offenses nor interfere with criminal prosecution through a clause “unless the act constitutes a crime” inserted in the penalty provisions.
The second change to the bill regards the reintroduction of a suspension of up to six months for repeat offenders of commercial fraud during which companies found for a second time to flout the rules must suspend commercial activity.
“We have raised these concerns from the beginning and we are satisfied that the protection of our green gold turned out positively,” said the Five Star Movement deputy in the Agriculture Committee Giuseppe L’Abbate. “We request the Government to transpose as soon as possible these indications within the final decree, to be issued by October, so it can be operational before the next harvesting season.”