60 Minutes, the most successful program in U.S. television history, will delve into the adulteration of extra virgin olive oil in Italy and mafia involvement in the agricultural sector. With an average audience of 12.2 million, the broadcast will draw unprecedented attention to the issue of olive oil quality and authenticity.
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The segment, which will air Sunday, January 3 at 7:30 PM Eastern Time (00:30 UTC) features a look by CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker at the Carabinieri unit of tasters trained to detect counterfeit oils. “They can tell at first sip whether extra virgin been diluted with cheap sunflower oil or canola,” Whitaker says.
In its vigorous effort to defend Italian extra virgin olive oil that has proved to be “a favorite target of the agromafia,” 60 specially trained officers make up the tasting panel and 1,100 more are in the field conducting investigations into food fraud throughout the country, the report says. “We can call ourselves the FBI of food,” Sergio Tirro of the Carabinieri tells Whitaker.
Last month a massive fraud was unmasked by the State Forestry Corps, and the Anti-Mafia Directorate of Bari, which discovered that 7,000 tons of olive oil sold as ‘100% Italian’ extra virgin olive oil were actually blended oils from non-EU countries such as Syria, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia.
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The oil was sold on the Italian and international markets labeled ‘100 percent Italian’ with a value estimated to be in the “tens of millions of euros,” according to the Forestry Corps.
Italian extra virgin olive oil commands a premium price in markets around the world due to the longstanding prestige of the brand. The 60 Minutes segment is the latest in a series of widely publicized examinations of criminal activities exploiting the perceived value of ‘Made in Italy’ food products.