NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, December 31, 2015, 2:23 PM
Like a virgin, but not quite.
Italian cops nabbed some 7,000 tons of extra virgin olive oil last month. Most of it was headed to American kitchens, leading to suspicions that much of the extra virgin olive oil sold in America is a scam.
This slippery plot was foiled but it’s just a dent in the bogus food industry the Mafia is involved in, “60 Minutes” reports in the Sunday, Jan. 3 edition on CBS.
Extra virgin is the best, most expensive and purest olive oil made. The standards to receive that classification include that the oil must be produced without any solvents and in a climate controlled way so that the oil is not changed by heat. The fradulent oil is usually mixed with sunflower oil or canola oil.
The Carabinieri, the Italian state police, seized the fake oil, part of an estimated $ 16 billion a year scam.
The Italians take the authenticity of their food seriously, not just the delicacies served there but what is exported to the rest of the world.
“We call ourselves the FBI of food,” Major Sergio Tirro of the Carabinieri tells correspondent Bill Whitaker.
Whitaker tours Tirro’s unit which includes 60 tasters. Their palates can discern extra virgin olive oil from adulterated products.
There’s a reason the fake oil attracts the Mafia and other criminals. The profit can be higher than that made from drugs.
A gallon of true extra virgin olive oil costs about $ 50 to make. The knockoff can be made for about $ 7.
Beyond the authenticity and the taste, there is another, possibly lethal issue.
“It is a serious problem because it’s not only a commercial fraud,” Tirro said.” If you adulterate an extra virgin olive oil with seed oil and those bottles reach consumers who are allergic to seed oil, you are sending them bombs.”
Whitaker’s report also touches on other ways the Mafia is involved in Italy’s food industry, forcing farmers to use their laborers and extorting merchants.