“Agromafia”, a report led by Italy’s anti-trust agency about many producers suspected of cheating quality tests and faking some important Italian products, stated that about half of the Extra Virgin Oil sold in Italian supermarkets, and up to 80 percent of the ones that we find in grocery stores and supermarkets in the USA, might be a fake.
Therefore, seven Italian olive oil companies, including big names such as Bertolli, Pimadonna, Carapelli, have been investigated for selling fraudulent Extra Virgin Oil: it means not only that it is diluted with other kinds of oil, like sunflower oil or hazelnut oil, but even that in some cases it is treated with additives to obtain a stronger smell and flavour.
Agromafia: The Source of all Problems?
It is an absolute scandal of course, both for the Italian people who consider these products a national treasure and for the many American food lovers, who are now getting cold feet about consuming their beloved Italian products.
Nevertheless, this fraud is nothing new, unfortunately: according to the press criminal organisations nicknamed “Agromafia” has been manipulating olive oil, as well as wine and cheese for a long time.
To fight this problem, it is important to inform people about it. First of all, they must be able to recognise the real Extra Virgin Oil: its colour is typically green-gold because it is made by crushing olives as soon as they are picked, and above all this process does not involve chemicals ingredients that might contaminate the oil.
Bad oils are cheaper, and it is easy to recognise them because they are more acidic, and rancid due to the faster oxidation of the olives. Their sour flavour depends on how long they have been sitting in the warehouse before reaching the consumers and if chemical extraction was used. On the contrary, wherever the olives are picked, the most important is to handle it properly and you will have a perfect Olive Oil.
Another important aspect to look for on an Olive Oil bottle is the harvest date, and not the expiration date, as we are used to do: always remember that oil must be consumed within a year of the harvest date. So, never forget to look at labels carefully: to find a specific city or country name of a well-known olive-producing area, as Sicily or Puglia, is a very good sign.
When you buy a bottle labelled “Italian” you might want to read the label twice and check if the product is actually made from Italian olives or just pressed in Italy. The law allows to mark products as “Made in italy” even using EU olives and then pressed in Italy. Well it is made in Italy from EU olives and it is misleading. Real Italian Extra Virgin has to be made from Italian olives, and the label will say that, so it is worth to check. If it says made with EU olives or olives from different countries you are buying a blended product. Since the recent scandals and the lack of traceability you might end up consuming Extra virgin blended with other oils, and only the lab can tell.
Where to get the Real stuff.
Good extra virgin olive oils can be bought directly from producers, or from supplier who can guarantee that the oil in the bottle is from a single estate. In fact single estate olive oils are the best and you will be sure that you are not buying a blended or counterfeit product.
Furthermore, we must remember that the aim of this investigation is not just to condemn the production of bad Oil, but also to protect consumers and above all the thousands of honest producers in Italy.
Italy is in fact the second largest Oil producer, after Spain. There we find the Puglia region as the most productive one, followed by Calabria and Sicily, so it is very important for the country to keep its good reputation.
What else can you do to avoid buying fake Oil? You can buy it directly from the producer. This way you will be sure that it is made using fresh olives, without chemical additives: as it is essentially a fruit juice, of course it must not be too old!