Italian authorities confiscate almost $1 million in fake olive oil

Officials in southern Italy have broken up an alleged racket selling fake olive oil, confiscating 42 tons of the extra virgin variety worth almost $1 million.

Seven people are accused of criminal conspiracy, adulteration of food substances intended for marketing, fraud in public military supplies and adulteration of food for export, according to a memo sent out by the Carabinieri.

The raids, carried out overnight Monday in the Puglia region, involved search warrants for 18 garages and warehouses.

Some of the 42 tons of oil was already packaged ready for sale. Authorities confiscated 71 tons of what was referred to as an “oily substance” in plastic tanks, as well as 623 liters of chlorophyll, a component of extra virgin olive oil that was being added to oil of a lesser value.

They found packaging equipment, labels purporting that the oil was “extra virgin” when it was clearly not, and commercial documentation including 1,145 customs excise duty stamps that are being studied for forgery, the statement said.

Vans, loading equipment and computers were also seized.

Authorities also confiscated 174 bottles of champagne that is suspected of being fake and is undergoing testing.

The investigation started in September with the arrest of 11 people in Italy and Spain and the confiscation of 12 barrels containing 260,000 liters of adulterated, or non-virgin or extra olive oil.

Incidents of falsified extra virgin olive oil have increased in recent years, due to both the popularity of the Mediterranean diet and the effects of climate change, which has greatly reduced production in southern Europe due to devastating droughts, according to the International Olive Council.

In January, officials carried out raids at 50 restaurants in Rome and found seed oil being passed off as extra virgin olive oil.

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