`Mueller Connects Unseemly Events in Italian Olive Oil Sector

Europe

Mueller Connects Unseemly Events in Italian Olive Oil Sector

Jan. 3, 2016
Olive Oil Times Staff

Recent News

A string of events in the Ital­ian olive oil sec­tor mak­ing head­lines around the world might seem uncon­nected to the casual reader, but they form an all-too-famil­iar pat­tern to Tom Mueller, the inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and author of Extra Vir­gin­ity: The Sub­lime and Scan­dalous World of Olive Oil.”
See more: The World’s Best Olive Oils, Offi­cial NYIOOC Rank­ing
Writ­ing on his Truth in Olive Oil blog, Mueller called the multi-staged bat­tle rag­ing in Italy part of a larger world war over food authen­tic­ity.”

All this prob­a­bly sounds bizarre and irrel­e­vant, espe­cially if you live out­side Italy.- Tom Mueller

In Decem­ber, anti-mafia inves­ti­ga­tors seized 7,000 tons of olive oil in Puglia labeled 100 Ital­ian” that was found to be from North Africa and the Mid­dle East. Mueller said his sources had con­firmed a mafia con­nec­tion with at least one of the com­pa­nies being inves­ti­gated. That explained, accord­ing to Mueller, why the probe is being led by an elite corps of pros­e­cu­tors that spe­cial­izes in fight­ing orga­nized crime syn­di­cates.”

The inves­ti­ga­tion also led the mafia to seek a hedge against the pos­si­ble fall­out, accord­ing to Mueller. As if to under­score the polit­i­cal clout of some of the accused, just before Christ­mas, mem­bers of the Ital­ian Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, includ­ing the head of their inves­tiga­tive corps, tried to push through new leg­is­la­tion that would have de-crim­i­nal­ized the sale of fake Made in Italy’ olive oil, pun­ish­ing it instead with a mod­est fine.”
See more: Lis­ten to an Inter­view with Tom Mueller on the On Olive Oil’ Pod­cast
Two days before a widely antic­i­pated air­ing of a 60 Min­utes’ seg­ment on mafia involve­ment in the Ital­ian agri­cul­ture sec­tor, Mueller wrote that even the calami­tous out­break of the bac­terium Xylella fas­tidiosa could be traced to a place where ancient trees pro­tected by law from being felled stood in the way of the con­struc­tion of a new resort devel­op­ment, lend­ing his sup­port behind grow­ing sus­pi­cion that orga­nized crime was at the root of that cri­sis, too.

Sud­denly there would be more elbow (or hotel) room in sev­eral lovely sea­side locales in Puglia,” Mueller wrote.

A mys­te­ri­ous plant dis­ease, a sus­pect legal maneu­ver, anti-mafia inves­ti­ga­tors stum­bling into 7,000 tons of fishy olive oil, famous oil brands accused once more of pass­ing off low-grade prod­uct as the Real McCoy … all this prob­a­bly sounds bizarre and irrel­e­vant, espe­cially if you live out­side Italy.”

Advertisement

But Italy is far from the only place where cor­rup­tion and prof­i­teer­ing lie at the heart of the food chain, even when an esti­mated 12 mil­lion Amer­i­cans might get a sense the prob­lem is uniquely Ital­ian tonight watch­ing 60 Min­utes.’

The unseemly spec­ta­cle of fraud that’s play­ing out right now in Puglia, Turin and Rome also hap­pens in count­less other foods in other coun­tries,” Mueller said, where no pros­e­cu­tor, police inves­ti­ga­tor or politi­cian raises a hand, word of the shenani­gans never gets out, and busi­ness con­tin­ues as usual.”

Related News