Fake Olive Oil: Why Do Olive Oil Labels Mislead Consumers?


Word on the street is, there is fake olive oil on our grocery stores shelves posing as the real thing. Symbols and certifications should guarantee the authenticity of the product. Items labeled non-GMO, organic, “heart-healthy,” or imported from a certain country line grocery store shelves. But, thanks to new research, fraudulent products imported from Italy are now exposed. The roots of this scandal involve the mafia. 

Fake Olive Oil Exposed

Estimates show that up to 80% of the olive oil imported from Italy is not authentic. Some fake olive oil isn’t even made from olives. The quality of the product is vastly inferior to that which is being claimed on the label. According to the 60 Minutes Olive Oil Story, these oils are being “diluted with cheap sunflower oil or canola.” At best, the deception is merely the replacement of one variety of oil with another. Not only are these oils mislabelled, they’re dangerous. If an ingredient such as seed oil is left off of a label, a customer with an allergy may unknowingly purchase a concentrated oil with an ingredient they can’t consume. In addition, some of these oils contain chemical solvents and pesticides. Consumers may be purchasing extra virgin olive oil for its purported health benefits, and are instead consuming toxins and low-quality vegetable oils.

If It’s Not Olive Oil, What Is It?

What is the motivation behind the scandal? Simply put, greed is to blame. By selling lower quality and fake olive oil at high-quality prices, the mafia is turning a huge profit. The average consumer can’t tell the difference. A panel of police has been expertly trained to refine their palates so they can identify fraud by flavor. As it turns out, this scandal is affecting many popular Italian imports, from cheeses to wine, to fish. Organized crime has found ways to bleach, process, and flavor products to give the illusion of quality to an inferior food. Then, they sell the consumer fake olive oil, bleached mozzarella, and other imitations of traditional cuisine.

Which Brands To Look Out For

Unfortunately, the stamp of Italian import has long been a symbol of quality. The Mafia, now being labeled the “Agro Mafia,” found this to be an opportunity that they could take advantage of. They do so by importing lower quality vegetable oils from other countries, processing them in Italy, and stamping them as having been produced in Italy before exporting to other countries. So, which brands do we need to look out for? Many well-known and trusted names are on the list of falsified products. According to Lifehacker, the list includes many common household brands that we think we can trust.

Trusted Alternatives

The investigation into olive oil fraud may leave us wondering where we can find authentic olive oil. Considering how deep the deception runs, it can be tempting to distrust all olive oil and remove it from the pantry. But, olive oil is an exceptional health food with a stellar reputation. Certainly, we don’t want to be misled, but that doesn’t mean we need to be suspicious of all of the brands on the market. Olives are grown in various parts of the world. In fact, Greece produces a wide variety of delicious olives with strong flavors and high phenol levels. While fraudulent oils are being discovered in Italy, it is wise to switch up the source to one that is more trusted.

Don’t Fear! There’s Still Great Oils Available

It’s unfortunate that greed sometimes overcomes humanity to such an extent that they would jeopardize other human lives. Specifically, when it comes to a product that has been associated with cardiovascular health, vitality, and longevity. It can be frightening to acknowledge that the products we are being sold may be mislabeled. In the case of olive oil and food fraud, what we get is a low-quality product that we are ingesting in place of a health food. At best, we purchase a low-quality oil flavored with olive; At its worst, we are purchasing oil containing toxic chemicals, pesticides, and unmarked allergens.


However, there are alternatives on the market. Be wary of big name brands labeling products as “Imported From Italy.” For the time being, that stamp of quality has lost its merit. But, olive oil itself is one of the oldest and most valuable health foods. We don’t need to remove it from our diet. Check your sources to find trustworthy suppliers. Enjoy health and vitality with quality oils and don’t fear the forgery.