Mafia Control of Olive Oil the Topic of '60 Minutes' Report

Before millions of viewers who had just watched the Denver Broncos defeat the San Diego Chargers in a close late-season football game, '60 Minutes' showed how American olive oil consumers are getting ripped off by the Italian mob.
Jan. 3, 2016
Olive Oil Times Staff

Recent News

The CBS News mag­a­zine 60 Min­utes’ aired a seg­ment on mafia involve­ment in Ital­ian agri­cul­ture tonight, intro­duc­ing mil­lions of view­ers to the shady under­world of the olive oil trade and cast­ing a fresh pall of sus­pi­cion over the Made in Italy” brand.

Mafia copies of fine olive oil, wine and cheese have fueled an explo­sion of food crime in Italy,” said CBS News cor­re­spon­dent, Bill Whitaker.

It’s very dif­fi­cult to say in any given case with olive oil exactly how many drops in a given bot­tle actu­ally have Mafia blood on them.- Tom Mueller

In addi­tion to a con­ver­sa­tion with Ital­ian inves­ti­ga­tor Ser­gio Tirro, whose team of 60 trained tasters are able to detect coun­ter­feit olive oils at first sip,” the report fea­tured an inter­view with Tom Mueller, the author of the Extra Vir­gin­ity exposé.
See more: The World’s Best Olive Oils, Offi­cial NYIOOC Rank­ing
You in many cases are get­ting lower grade olive oil that has been blended with some good extra vir­gin olive oil…you’re some­times get­ting deodor­ized oil,” Mueller said. They blend it with some oil that has some char­ac­ter to give it a lit­tle color, a lit­tle flavor…and they sell that as extra vir­gin. It’s ille­gal — it hap­pens all the time.”

Before an esti­mated 12 mil­lion view­ers who had just watched the Den­ver Bron­cos defeat the San Diego Charg­ers in a close late-sea­son foot­ball game, Tirro demon­strated how easy it is to coun­ter­feit extra vir­gin olive oil.

Image: 60 Minutes / CBS News

Tak­ing a vial of col­or­less, odor­less sun­flower oil, he added a few drops of chloro­phyll. It becomes the color of olive oil,” Tirro said. It’s as sim­ple as that.


Sicil­ian olive oil pro­ducer, Nicola Clemenza, is lead­ing a 200-farmer upris­ing against mafia con­trol in the region.

On the day I started the con­sor­tium, they burned my car, they burned down part of my home and I was inside with my wife and my daugh­ter,” Clemenza said.

Mueller said mafia con­trol per­vades the food sup­ply in Italy, and described its impact on olive oil in the bleak­est terms: It’s very dif­fi­cult to say in any given case with olive oil exactly how many drops in a given bot­tle actu­ally have Mafia blood on them.”
See more: Lis­ten to an Inter­view with Tom Mueller on the On Olive Oil’ Pod­cast
When Whitaker asked how much of the olive oil labeled extra vir­gin” that reaches Amer­i­cans is really not extra vir­gin, Mueller responded, 75% to 80%, eas­ily.”

CBS News shipped 3 bot­tles of olive oil found in an unnamed Amer­i­can super­mar­ket to Tirro’s tast­ing panel: Only one was found to be extra vir­gin.

They described one as lam­pante — the low­est qual­ity olive oil. That brand hap­pens to be one of the best-sell­ing in Amer­ica,” Whitaker said.

The top-sell­ing brand in the United States is Bertolli, which is the sub­ject of a high-pro­file fraud inves­ti­ga­tion and mul­ti­ple class action law­suits.

Related News