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

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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.”

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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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