Police seized cargo which either had no labels or were marked as EVOO made in Italy

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Police on Friday seized eight tonnes of oil blends which either had no labels or were marked as extra virgin olive oil in southern Italy.

NAS, a special police force operating under the supervision of the Italian ministry of health, confiscated the oil blends, some of which were labelled as made-in-Italy products in Salento, a district of Puglia region.

“Two tonnes were labeled as extra virgin olive oil made in Italy, but in fact were blends of oil imported from Spain and Greece,” NAS Lieutenant Antonio Murrone told Xinhua.

“The other six tonnes in silos do not have any label indication,” he added.

Murrone said the action followed ordinary checks carried out by NAS on purchasing documents, confection containers and laboratory analyses.

“Five entrepreneurs, all Italian nationals, have been denounced as a result of the investigation,” he said.

David Granieri, Chairman of Rome-based Unaprol, Europe’s biggest consortium of olive oil producers, said that the industry encourages routine tests on all products that are sold as olive oil.

“We collaborate with police forces to combat the phenomenon of counterfeiting and sophistication. A series of blends are sold as extra virgin olive oil,” he said.

During the past four years, he pointed out, Unaprol has trained more than 300 olive oil tasters among Italian police forces, who have played a key role in olive oil-related investigations.

In addition, thanks to a law promoted by Unaprol and enacted in 2013, Italian magistrates can also ask a panel of tasters to make checks during a trial.

Granieri said illegal activities still happen.

“Such activities normally are not carried out by olive oil producers, who are perfectly aware of their brand’s value, but by ruthless people who have no relation with olive oil and its history,” he said.

He stressed the fraud is not only damaging the image of the product, but also makes no sense in a country which has 250 million olive trees planted in 19 out of its 20 regions.

Italian olive oil production, though posted a drop like in other European countries in 2014, is usually worth around 2 billion euros (2.24 billion US dollars) a year, Granieri estimates.

In the first month of 2014, olive oil imports reached 528,000 tonnes, and exports 349,000 tonnes.

However, the value of exports, which is put at around 1.14 billion euros, exceeded that of imports, which is about 1.12 billion euros, according to Granieri. (1 euro = 1.12 US dollars)

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