The alleged fraud was first discovered by an Italian consumer magazine in May 2015 and then investigated by the authorities.
They announced last year that of 20 brands tested in the laboratory by specialists from the Italian customs agency, nine were found to be lower quality oil.
The producers caught up in the investigation include big names such as Bertolli, Santa Sabina, Primadonna, which is sold through the discount supermarket chain Lidl, and Antica Badia, which is sold through another cheap supermarket chain, Eurospin. The others are Carapelli, Coricelli and Sasso.
They are accused of passing off the slightly lower quality virgin olive oil as extra-virgin – the highest quality and the most expensive.
Extra-virgin oil 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.
The alleged fraud is now being investigated by prosecutors based in Turin.
“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,” said Rosario Trefiletti, the president of Federconsumatori, a consumer association.
“It’s a shameful business that requires prompt action by the authorities.”
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).
Maurizio Martina, the agriculture minister, said it was important for the investigation to proceed in order to “protect consumers, as well as the thousands of honest olive oil producers” in Italy.
“For months now we have been increasing quality controls. In 2014 our inspectors carried out 6,000 checks and confiscated oil worth 10 million euros. It’s vital to protect a sector as important as that of olive oil,” the minister said.
Italy is the world’s second largest producer of oil, after Spain. Puglia is the most productive region, followed by Calabria and Sicily, all in the south of the country. Codacons, Italy’s principal consumer association, said people who had bought the lower quality oil should be entitled to compensation from the companies involved.
Studies are bearing out the fact that extra virgin olive oil is often adulterated with cheaper, more refined, deodorized olive oils, oils from olives deemed unfit for human consumption, and/or random nut, seed, and vegetable oils spiked with chlorophyll and beta-carotene to replicate the authentic color.
An Australian study found that over half the supermarket EVOO was anything but, even the supposedly legit stuff from the Mediterranean countries; New Zealand researchers had similar results with Mediterranean imports into their country. Last year, a University of California at Davis study found that 69% of imported extra virgin olive oils failed to meet international standards, while 90% of California EVOO tested passed (the study was partially financed by major California olive oil producers, and producers of some of the failed imports are crying foul).
Similar adulteration is taking place in China, where imported olive oil is mixed with cheap seed oils. In 2007, the New Yorker published a harrowing account of widespread and longstanding fraud in the Italian olive oil industry (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks”), and more recently, a study found that four out of five Italian olive oils were “debased.”
Aside from being cheated out of your money for a disgustingly disappointing mix of soybean and canola oils, can any real health issues arise from consuming adulterated olive oils?
There are allergy concerns, of course, if the adulterant contains an allergen, such as like peanut oil. Owing to the similarity of its fatty acids to olive oil’s, hazelnut oil is another popular adulterant as well as a fairly common allergen, and one study even showed that people with hazelnut allergies could identify olive oil spiked with hazelnut oil because they suffered symptoms after eating it.
Another health issue that can arise from using adulterated olive oil is the one caused by excessive intake of omega-6 fats from the soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola, or any other cheap high-PUFA oil being added: generation of inflammatory eicosanoids, systemic inflammation, and oxidized blood lipids. Luckily, the fridge test is sufficient to ferret out PUFA-rich “olive oil” and prevent this from harming you.
Depending on the source and age of the adulterants (year old soybean oil, five month canola, etc), the once robust polyphenol profile of the starter extra virgin olive oil will have been severely diluted. And since the healthful, anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil can mostly be attributed to the polyphenols, olive oil adulterated with inferior, polyphenol-less oils will be less stable, more rancid, and more prone to oxidation. Oxidized oils are not very good for us.
Although Olive oil has gained much of its popularity due to being regarded as quite healthy, aside from it being hard to find pure extra-virgin olive oil, it isn’t quite as healthy for you as Avocado oil.
Avocado oil is quickly becoming a household favourite for creating fantastic dishes of all kinds, including dips and salad dressings, because it contains no trans-fats, and contains high levels of antioxidants, phytosterols, and other healthy compounds. This especially makes it a far better choice over olive oil when it comes to heart health.
It also has a more buttery (and less bitter) flavor than olive oil, and more creamy texture, which can be used to enhance a number of dishes. Some vegan cooks have even used it to replace butter and dairy in many recipes. While avocado oil has a similar fatty acid profile as olive oil (it’s roughly 75 percent fat with a substantial dose of good-for-you monounsaturated compounds), there’s also a few other key nutrients that elevate its health status:
In general, studies have shown that those who eat avocados regularly are healthier than those that don’t—and avocado oil is just as effective as the raw fruit. Those that ate one serving of avocado every day, in fact, found these benefits:
At BR Naturals we grow our own avocados on our farms, making sure everything is done as naturally, and as chemical-free as possible. We believe in producing the purest, cleanest, and most natural and unaltered oils possible, at affordable prices.
Experience the difference that true quality makes!