The reason for food fraud is simple: Money. The United States alone spends an astonishing 1.5 billion dollars a year on olive oil. That’s a very big pie and the bigger the pie, the greater the lengths that some people will go in order to get a slice of it.
Olive oil is one of the world’s legendary health foods. It’s a key component of the Mediterranean diet which is has been found by researchers to contribute to a long lifespan. However, olive oil forgery is now rampant with even some of the most famous brands being found to have been adulterated. The olive oil forgers have apparently gotten so good at doing this that even experts are having a hard time telling the two apart.
One of the challenges is that olive oil is a product of very variable quality and very easily interchangeable. The best and most expensive stuff is cold-pressed extra virgin. The cheapest is not even supposed to be for human consumption and should be used for soap and other purposes. A further common scam is to “cut” the oil with another (cheaper) low-grade vegetable oil like canola. The taste is sometimes adjusted with artificial additives, the color “perfected” with artificial colors.
It’s not just the food that is “too easy” to fake: What about the packaging? What I find alarming is that with all the advances in technology, creating an entirely fake food product might not be that difficult. If scammers can fake an iPad, then how difficult can it be to fake a label on an olive oil bottle and label? How would we know?
Seems to us there’s only one solution and the world needs it urgently – more advanced product certification and new advanced labs for food testing. If it was known that a product was going to be tested (and rejected if fake, together with charges being pressed), the sellers would take great care in their purchasing.