Following huge back-to-back European olive oil scandals in November and December, Italy’s Agricultural Ministry surprised consumer advocates and olive growers by proposing legislation aimed at decriminalizing olive oil fraud altogether. According to the Olive Oil Times, Italian olive growers responded with angry protests.
Earlier news reports from European newspapers Teatro Naturale and Il Primato Nazionale outlined the thinly-veiled Industry proposal as follows:
- Jail time would be replaced by a civil fee up to $10,000.
- Paying civil fees would give violators immunity from further prosecution.
- One agency would be responsible for all fraud investigation/civil fee collection.
- Other law enforcement agencies would be legally prohibited from investigating or publicly reporting olive oil fraud.
It is hard to imagine this legislation passing. What is most disturbing is that this very real proposal was made by government officials who are responsible for protecting olive oil quality. The fact that they would respond to fraud by proposing it be decriminalized demonstrates who they must really be working for.
(Hint: Foxes are guarding the henhouse!)
This latest news provides another reminder why American buyers cannot trust imported European olive oils to be what their labels claim.