I’ve just learned that Italy has trained some of its cops to become crack olive oil tasters. Their mission: distinguish between bogus extra virgin olive oil and the real thing.
You may have read that Italy has had a bit of a problem with counterfeit extra virgin olive oil. A couple years ago the Italian police nabbed 39 people and seized more than 25,000 liters of counterfeit EVOO. It was about to be sold in Italy and elsewhere in bottles bearing the labels of phony companies.
If you’re wondering what actually was inside those bottles, Britain’s Guardian newspaper provided this version of the secret recipe: “Oil made from soya beans or sunflower seeds – some of it genetically modified – mixed with beta carotene and industrial chlorophyll.”
The prosecutor who ordered the plant raids said the concoction “of itself” wouldn’t have hurt you.
But it caused huge embarrassment for Italy, which reacted by training a special squad of “gourmet” police officers to sniff out EVOO fraud. No word on whether they used those small blue olive oil cups for tasting when they got their training from Unaprol, a trade group representing Italian olive growers.
The industry association representing Italian olive oil producers did say, however, the fraud was “the tip of the iceberg,” according to the Guardian. You can also check out a fascinating article in The New Yorker about how widespread the problem has become overseas.
To prevent such fraud, California has adopted strict standards governing what can be sold as genuine EVOO. Oil certified as EVOO here must undergo lab and taste tests. California’s standards are stricter than those set by the International Olive Council.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch