Undercover operation has revealed a multi-million pound fraud in Italy's olive oil sector

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Cheaper oil from Spain and Greece passed off as Italian extra-virgin by producers in Puglia, Umbria and Campania.

An undercover operation code-named “Mamma Mia” has revealed a multi-million pound olive oil scam in which Spanish and Greek oil was passed off as Italian extra virgin.

Italian investigators discovered that producers in the regions of Umbria, Calabria and Puglia were putting false labels on bottles, claiming the oil was Italian when in fact it was cheaper stuff from Spain and Greece.

On Wednesday they impounded 2,000 tonnes of oil worth 13 million euros, or £10 million, in what police described as a “vast and proven system of fraud in the olive oil sector”. While there was nothing wrong with the ‘foreign’ oil, producers were committing an offence by falsely claiming that it was from Italy.

Italian oil tends to have a greater cachet than oil from other countries and commands higher prices, both in Italy and abroad.
Eight producers are being investigated on charges of fraud and false accounting.

David Granieri, the president of Unaprol, a consortium of oil producers, called for tighter controls to be introduced on the importing of oil into Italy.

“In that way we would be able to better protect consumers and honest oil producers from these sorts of criminal actions,” he said.
The olive oil sector has been hit by fraud allegations in the past.

In November, seven of Italy’s best-known olive oil companies were investigated for allegedly passing off inferior quality oil as extra-virgin. Extra-virgin oil costs on average a third more than ordinary oil, netting the firms millions of pounds in extra profit.

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  1. Dolores Smith  |  

    Do not forget the big picture: as the largest producer in the world of olive oil Spain has many producers ranked in the world’s top 5, top 15, top 25, top 50, top 100, and has widespread implementation of modern extraction technology and olive grove agronomy expertise across all levels of its olive oil sector. Obviously, some of its production is for mass market, and other much, much lower quality as well which offers companies that operate unscrupulously/unethically the opportunity to purchase and rebrand in order to maximize their profits. .

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