Scandal and intrigue have hit the Italian food industry yet again, but this time it’s no underground parmesan cheese ring. Seven manufacturers of prized Italian olive oil are currently being investigated for being dishonest to consumers about the quality of their products — apparently the claims of “extra virgin” on the labels of some bottles of olive oil are false and the oil is merely virgin.
The discrepancy between the labels and the products were first discovered by a consumer magazine back in May, which prompted the investigation. Twenty brands of olive oil were tested to see if they were truly up to snuff; nine were found to be of inferior quality. And if you think that low-grade olive oil in Italy is not that big of a deal, then you don’t know how seriously the Italians take their olive oil.
Rosario Trefiletti, the president of Federconsumatori, a consumer association, said:
The damage caused by this deceit is enormous, not just for consumers but also for the entire country and for the image of products that are made in Italy. It’s a shameful business that requires prompt action by the authorities.
Among the brands investigated were Bertolli, Santa Sabina, Primadonna, and Antica Badia. Italy is the second largest producer of the world’s olive oil behind Spain. Not only is it one of the biggest industries in Italy, but it’s also incredibly corrupt and has been for years.
If you’re wondering what the difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oil, it’s a matter of quality and taste:
Extra-virgin oil, which is typically green-gold in colour, is made by crushing the olives soon after they are picked in a process that involves no chemicals, heat or industrial refining.
Virgin olive oil is cheaper and generally more acidic.
Agriculture minister Maurizio Martina says that the investigation will proceed to prosecutors in Turin in hopes that consumers as well as honest olive oil manufacturers will be protected against more widespread fraud.