Seven olive oil companies are accused of selling ordinary olive oil as “extra virgin,” a label reserved for olive oils of the highest quality.
Raffaele Guariniello—a prosecutor in Turin, Italy—announced the investigation into the seven olive oil producers today, according to Italian news site La Stampa (link in Italian). Guariniello leads the charge against legal officials from the half dozen companies for potential commercial fraud.
His investigation was sparked by a report from Italian consumer protection magazine Il Test, which tested 20 different olive oils labeled “extra virgin” in Italian supermarkets, and that found nine (link in Italian) merely met the standard for “virgin” olive oil.
The brands implicated in Guariniello’s investigation are Carapelli, Santa Sabina, Bertolli, Coricelli, Sasso, Primadonna, and Antica Badia. Not all are Italian—Carapelli and Bertolli started out as Italian olive oil makers and are now both owned by the Spanish food group SOS Cuetara.
Guariniello’s investigation reflects a growing problem. Last year, the New York Times released a deep dive into fraud in the olive oil industry, but the issue has been extensively covered elsewhere, and by Tom Mueller in his blog Truth in Olive Oil. In 2012, the US International Trade Commission held a national hearing on the state of the olive oil industry.