Photo: Michael W. May / Flickr
Olive oil has played a prominent part in Mediterranean culture for over 2,000 years and is beloved by foodies the world over.However, the industry has a dirty little secret.
A lot of the “Italian extra virgin olive oil” isn’t what it says on the tin. Sometimes it’s not extra virgin, sometimes it’s not Italian — and sometimes it’s not even made from olives.
Here’s what you need to know about one of the world’s most lucrative criminal endeavours.
*An earlier version of this article included a photo where the Olive oil label iO was visible. The inclusion of this brand was not intentional and not meant to imply the group was guilty of the crimes described in the article. We have changed the photo at the request of iO.
It's probably because of how valuable it is — way back in ancient Rome, per-capita consumption of olive oil was as much as 50 litres every year.
The fake industry continued into modern times — for example, in the original Godfather novel, Vito Corleone was based on a real-life olive oil mafioso named Joe Profaci
Domenico Ribatti, once the world's largest dealer in olive oil, was even sentenced to 13 years in prison in the '90s.
Additionally, olive oil consumption is on the rise — it's risen 37 per cent in Southern Europe and more than a 100 per cent in North America
In 2005 Italian authorities broke up one criminal gang with 100,000 litres of fake olive oil — worth almost $8 million.
In April 2007, Italy's agriculture minister admitted the government had investigated 787 olive oil producers.
The Olive Oil Times defines extra virgin as:
In chemical terms extra virgin olive oil is described as having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C).
Perhaps because of these factors, it's thought that 50% of olive oil in America is, to some degree, fraudulent.
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