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Australian Tabloid Exposes Bad Olive Oil (And It's Australian)

Feb. 19, 2012
Curtis Cord

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The Big Olive: Rabih Moughelbay

The Adelaide edi­tion of Today Tonight, an Australian tabloid tele­vi­sion pro­gram, aired a report ear­lier this week on what it said was a four-month inves­ti­ga­tion into sub­stan­dard olive oil.

At first it seemed like a rehash­ing of a seg­ment from last sum­mer that also starred the glo­be­trot­ting Australian Olive Association President Paul Miller and a healthy dose of sen­sa­tion­al­ist report­ing. But then there was one very sur­pris­ing difference.

This show started out with the same over­state­ment of Australia’s stature among olive oil con­sum­ing nations as the last time: Australians are now the largest con­sumers of extra vir­gin olive oil out­side of Mediterranean coun­tries,” it said, again exhibit­ing a con­ve­nient unfa­mil­iar­ity with the some­times help­ful qual­i­fier, per capita.

And there was the oblig­a­tory anal­ogy to drug traf­fick­ing and the stan­dard bad­mouthing of imported olive oils. But then the show turned its sights on an Australian pro­ducer, Big Olive.

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Waving test results from the Modern Olives lab, reporter Frank Pangallo (who received anony­mous threats in the course of his work” the lead-in said solemnly) chases Big Olive’s Rabih Moughelbay down a Kensington sidewalk.

Moughelbay does­n’t help mat­ters when, from behind his big, dark sun­glasses he shoots back I’m not even a Christian but I’ll swear on the Bible that this is absolute crap, Frank!” before clos­ing the door in Pangallo’s face.

Then there are inter­views with dis­grun­tled for­mer work­ers, who have all sued the South Australian com­pany, describ­ing a revolv­ing door” work­force, unsan­i­tary prac­tices and the crim­i­nal rela­bel­ing of expired food.

The reports from Modern Olives sug­gested, accord­ing to the broad­cast, that Big Olive’s oils found on super­mar­ket shelves were old, adul­ter­ated and unfit for consumption. 

Modern Olives tests also found to be sub­stan­dard the pri­vate label olive oil imported for Australian MasterChef celeb George Calombaris.

When asked if he thought the seg­ment would help address accu­sa­tions that the cam­paign he leads is more about help­ing domes­tic pro­duc­ers than lift­ing olive oil qual­ity, Miller told Olive Oil Times There is no dis­tinc­tion in our minds between any olive oil. It is the case that most of the bad stuff comes from over­seas but I have always stated that about 15 to 20 per­cent of Australian oil also needs to lift its game.”

Some of that is hap­pen­ing for those cer­ti­fied domes­tic oils within the Code of Practice and we can see improve­ment,” Miller added, but we do have our crooks like this guy.”

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