Italy's crackdown on the illegal olive oil trade has resulted in another major seizure of 200 tonnes of oil falsely labelled as coming from the Tuscany region.
The oil originated from other areas of Italy - notably Puglia - as well as from Greece, but was being packaged and sold as genuine 'Toscano' oil, which has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) designation from the EU.
Nearly 50 individuals and organisations - including millers, bottlers and traders from the Grosseto, Florence, Arezzo, Siena and Foggia regions of Italy - have been detained as part of the investigation by the Ministry of Agriculture's inspectorate for the protection, quality and the repression of fraud in agriculture and food (ICQRF) and Italy's forestry department.
They are alleged to have substituted the oils "in order to profit from the higher price that Tuscan oil commands" both on the national and international markets, said the Italian government in a statement. The ploy was discovered thanks to DNA testing of the oil, which revealed a complex scam involving a large number of actors in the olive oil supply chain.
Around the start of the year the authorities in Italy seized 7,000 tonnes of olive oil claimed to be Italian extra virgin but which was actually a blend sourced from non-EU countries. The trade in falsified oils has been linked to organised criminal networks known locally as the 'agromafia'.
The criminals are exploiting a poor harvest for olives in 2014, which has resulted in a shortage in domestic oil production in Italy.
The consortium for the protection of Tuscan extra virgin olive oil (Toscano IGP) - which represents more than 11,000 producers - has been battling against falsification for years.
Recent initiatives to protect the brand include the introduction of alphanumeric codes on labels for traceability purposes, which can be used by consumers to identify the growers, pressers and bottlers of their oil.