` In Italy, Reactions to the '60 Minutes' Report on Olive Oil from Anger to Resolve


In Italy, Reactions to the '60 Minutes' Report on Olive Oil from Anger to Resolve

Jan. 25, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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A report ded­i­cated to mafia involve­ment in Ital­ian agri­cul­ture, and espe­cially the olive oil sec­tor, by CBS News mag­a­zine 60 Min­utes’ on Jan­u­ary 3, nat­u­rally raised var­i­ous reac­tions.

Tak­ing a cue from recent scan­dals involv­ing adul­ter­ated olive oil, CBS News cor­re­spon­dent Bill Whitaker sus­pected the threat of mafia entan­gle­ment through­out the whole Made in Italy” indus­try, with an annual turnover esti­mated at $16 bil­lion. The anchor’s words, Mafia copies of fine olive oil, wine and cheese have fueled an explo­sion of food crime in Italy,” touched the heart of the Ital­ian food sec­tor.
See more: 60 Min­utes: Agro­mafia
The del­i­cate topic has been debated by spe­cial­ized pub­li­ca­tions with, on one side, protests and objec­tions, and on the other side a hum­ble, proac­tive and deter­mined approach, to enhance the excel­lent work of thou­sands of hon­est pro­duc­ers — more than 700,000 farms — proud to bring the qual­ity of real Made in Italy” in the world.

What is the point of help­ing the Amer­i­can press to use neg­a­tive stereo­types of our coun­try?- Elia Fio­r­illo, CEQ (via OlioOf­fic­ina)

On OlioOf­fic­ina Mag­a­zine, a polemic let­ter by the pres­i­dent of the CEQ con­sor­tium, Elia Fio­r­illo, addressed to the min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, Mau­r­izio Mar­tina, lamented the fall­out of the 60 Min­utes’ seg­ment. Ital­ian olive oil, know­ingly tar­geted, emerges deeply dis­cred­ited,” Fio­r­illo said, before ask­ing the min­is­ter, What is the point of help­ing the Amer­i­can press to use neg­a­tive stereo­types of our coun­try?”

Since the domes­tic pro­duc­tion is in no way suf­fi­cient for inter­nal con­sump­tion and a large part of Ital­ian exports are made up of blends from dif­fer­ent ori­gins, accord­ing to Fio­r­illo the solu­tion to save the eco­nomic and social inter­ests, is to safe­guard both exported prod­ucts” with unam­bigu­ous label­ing, which harks back to an ear­lier CEQ pro­posal to insti­tute an offi­cial recog­ni­tion for High Qual­ity Ital­ian EVOO.”

In a pointed indict­ment of the motives behind the 60 Min­utes’ exposé, Fio­r­illo called for an urgent, offi­cial and author­i­ta­tive ini­tia­tive by the insti­tu­tions of this coun­try, able to dis­arm both those who legit­i­mately have an inter­est to snatch our mar­ket por­tions and those who try to mask their his­tor­i­cal inef­fi­cien­cies with pop­ulist media oper­a­tions.”


With a dif­fer­ent tone, Alberto Grimelli wrote on the blog Teatro Nat­u­rale, that Bill Whitaker has instead made a good ser­vice.”

What emerges from the trans­mis­sion is that Italy, despite the agro­mafia, is still present in the national agri-food sys­tem, is a coun­try with the anti­bod­ies, both in con­trol sys­tems and in civil soci­ety, to com­bat this scourge.”

Bill Whitaker could cer­tainly be much harder with Italy,” he wrote, but for­tu­nately for us he obvi­ously loves Italy and good Ital­ian food.” He was impressed that Whitaker called olive oil the food of God” and said it was no coin­ci­dence that fea­tured the mill of Nicola Clemenza, por­trayed as a hero of the civil soci­ety hav­ing orga­nized a group of Sicil­ian pro­duc­ers to fight against the mafia, despite hav­ing suf­fered seri­ous intim­i­da­tions.

The on-air joke that the NAS were like the FBI of food” was effec­tive, at least to show the imple­men­ta­tion of con­trols, and Grimelli reminded read­ers that only a few days before 60 Min­utes,’ the min­is­ters of agri­cul­ture and jus­tice intro­duced a bill with new rules to com­bat ille­gal hir­ing that is a noto­ri­ous tac­tic of orga­nized crime.

He said he hoped the pro­gram was seen by mem­bers of the Agri­cul­ture and Jus­tice Com­mit­tees of the Cham­ber of Deputies, called to express their views on draft leg­isla­tive decree that would decrim­i­nal­ize cer­tain offenses relat­ing to the label­ing of olive oils, which can be indi­ca­tion of more seri­ous offenses.”

Tak­ing a look at social net­works, chaotic but reveal­ing tank of people’s feel­ings, some groups of users linked with the olive oil indus­try exhib­ited dis­ap­point­ment and vibrant protests against the alle­ga­tions that seemed like mud­sling­ing the entire Ital­ian olive oil pro­duc­tion. But there were also calls for a more effi­cient pro­mo­tion of high-qual­ity prod­ucts, which has noth­ing to do with the mass-pro­duc­tion that comes across the agro­mafia path.

Among pro­duc­ers, tech­ni­cians, experts and tasters, a sim­i­lar and homo­ge­neous feel­ing emerged: a healthy and hon­est desire to fight the prob­lems of coun­ter­feit­ing by orga­nized crime infil­tra­tion which, some­one pointed out, is not only an Ital­ian issue, by enhanc­ing the leg­isla­tive instru­ments, con­sumer aware­ness and the pro­mo­tion of qual­ity food.

A Tus­can pro­ducer said: A solu­tion can be to strengthen the dis­tinc­tion between com­mer­cial prod­ucts — which of course are gen­er­ally more exposed to the threat of coun­ter­feit­ing — and the high-qual­ity olive oils, that — and this must be the good news — rep­re­sent the very large part of Ital­ian pro­duc­tion.”

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