This is one of those weird little conspiracy theories that pop-up quite frequently. It involves the Italian Mob manipulating the olive oil business on a international scale. To my knowledge it first appeared on the website “Spoon University” under the authorship of Elizabeth Vana.
Recently, my friend told me that she doesn’t buy olive oil from Italy because the Mafia has control of the fine-food industry there. Apparently, they’re sending fake or poor-quality olive oil to stores in the US. I laughed in her face. Because that sounds crazy, right? Maybe not so much.
Here’s the Deal
It turns out that the Italian Mafia do have their kitchen mitts tightly wound around olive oil production throughout Italy. It’s called the “Agro-mafia.” They dilute high-quality olive oil with low-quality, olive oils and chemicals to pass sunflower oil off as the real thing.
Is Nothing Sacred?
One Italian olive farmer estimated that 75-80% of olive oil in America that’s labeled as “extra virgin” doesn’t meet the standards for that designation. Yep, you heard it here: extra-virgin olive oil in the US isn’t what it claims to be.
I thought that “food crime” just meant me eating an entire pizza by myself in my living room and then spending the rest of the night in quiet shame. But this gets pretty serious. For one thing, it’s international.
Food Trafficking is a Thing.
Yep, the Italian Mafia has their olive-oil soaked paws on the foreign markets. Recently, the Italian police executed operation Mamma Mia. They uncovered a scam by the Mob to pass off low-quality oils from Spain and Greece as top-shelf, extra-virgin Italian olive oil. Seriously, they called their operation Mamma Mia. Can this sound anymore like a humorous conspiracy theory?
It turns out that this isn’t too uncommon. In addition to Greece and Spain, oils are trafficked through Syria, Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia. Cheap oils are taken from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and are rebranded as “authentic Italian extra-virgin” to scam consumers. Shame on you, Italian mobsters. Shame.
This is scary, and not only because it undermines consumer confidence, but also because if you have a nut allergy and purchase olive oil that’s been diluted with nut oils, then that’s a potentially life-threatening health concern. Not cool, Mafia.
So How Can You Tell If Your Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Is Truly What It Claims to Be?
You might think you can know by taking a good, long look at your oil: Is it the right color? Does it smell like olive oil? Does it taste okay?
Well the Italian Mob has been known to use chemicals like chlorophyll to color olive oil, so there goes that.
The best way to ensure that your olive oil is what it says on the bottle is to buy it from trustworthy sources. And don’t worry, the Italian government is cracking down on olive-oil fraud. So this food crime should be solved soon. In the meantime, just stay vigilant.
So there you have it. The moon landing was faked, the government is using chemtrails to control your mind, and Elvis isn’t dead. But the Italian Mob being behind an international olive oil scam that’s ruining the quality of olive oils in America? That’s one conspiracy theory you can mark down as true.
The processed food industry has always had an issue with product substitution. Although, it is not normally undertaken by organised crime, but rather by individual companies and producers who dilute or substitute their own products to increase profits. Industrialised nations have consumer laws to specifically deal with the issue. Unfortunately not everyone is law abiding, particularly the Italian Mafia.
Most of the content of this blog and Podcasts are drawn from this book and represent only a fraction of what is contained in the book.