Spanish prosecutors are seeking nine years jail and fines of 8,760 euros ($12,000) each for three Andalusian businessmen accused of olive oil fraud and deceptive advertising.
They say the trio sold as extra virgin olive oil mixtures of 70-80 per cent sunflower oil and just 20-30 percent olive oil, along with a dash of E141 – a food additive not approved for use in cooking oils – for color enhancement.
According to Spanish newspaper ABC, the prosecution claims that from their businesses in Lucena, Baena and Espejo — all within the Córdoba region — the men sold hundreds of thousands of liters of adulterated oil between early 2005 and mid-2006.
Labeled as extra virgin olive oil, and priced accordingly, 5-liter metal and plastic containers of the oil were sold in Andalusia, Valencia and Catalonia to unwitting food wholesalers, restaurants, and individual consumers, including via the internet, a Córdoba provincial court heard this week.
The trio, identified only by their initials – JMA, FAM and JJC – were charged as part of ‘Operation Cholesterol.’ A national investigation in Spain in 2006, it followed complaints of suspected olive oil adulteration which were substantiated in testing by regional authorities.
The prosecution says that while not all those who bought the adulterated oil have been identified, the trio should at least compensate those wholesalers who are known to have bought it, and the accused three should be disqualified from selling cooking oils.