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December 29, 2011

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'Top-end' olive oil from Italy? Often no

SHANGHAI entry-exit authorities are inspecting olive oil imported from Italy after the Italian agriculture federation said unscrupulous producers are mixing in cheaper oil from Greece, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia and passing it off as top-end extra virgin oil.

According to the Telegraph, Italian investigators became suspicious when they noticed that Italy was importing more olive oil than it was exporting - 470,000 tons against 250,000 tons - prompting questions about where the imported stuff was ending up.

The fraud was uncovered by the Italian customs service and police from the Guardia di Finanza, or fraud squad, with the encouragement of Coldiretti, one of the country's biggest agricultural organizations, said the newspaper.

The con is being perpetrated by what amounted to an "agro-mafia" of dishonest producers and manufacturers, Coldiretti said.

"It involves 13 of the biggest olive oil producers; there are some very famous names," Stefano Masini, the organization's spokesman, told the Telegraph.

Olive oil has become increasingly popular in China. Most of the imported variety sold in China comes from Italy and Spain.

China last year imported more than 6,500 tons of olive oil from Italy, double that in 2009. Italian-made olive oil now occupies about 35 percent of the Chinese market and is hotly sold on e-commerce platforms. Almost all the main brands are available on, China's leading e-commerce website.


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