Industry Resents Italy’s Move for New Laws to Prevent Olive Oil Fraud

Mar 06, 2016 07:51 PM EST | By Chandan Das

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Last week, Italian lawmakers voted on a draft legislation that apparently aims to prevent olive oil fraud. However, olive oil produces throughout Italy are unhappy over the government's move, as they fear that the new decree would malign the reputation enjoyed by Italian extra-virgin olive oil.

While members of both Houses of the Italian Parliament endorsed the decree on Tuesday, they advised the government to ensure that criminal law prevails over executive bans, for instance simple fines, if a commercial fraud it detected. The ruling has been returned to the government for drafting a final version, New York Times reported.

According to the report, the new draft legislation aims to legalize fines for all fake olive oil as well as their origins. For instance, a counterfeit olive oil would mean when a manufacturer declares that its oil is 100 percent Italian extra-virgin olive oil, but in reality, it contains olive oil imported from other countries.

This aspect of the decree has caused widespread resentment among olive oil producers, farming groups as well as lobbyists, who apprehend that it would upspring criminal proceedings with fines up to €9,500 roughly $10,300). According to them, such fines are too flippant and certainly inadequate to prevent fraud, generating millions of euros.

Although the Italian government claims to work for promoting 'made in Italy,' in reality they are trying to decriminalize adulterated olive oil," another NTY report quoted Nicola Fazzi, director of the Colli Etruschi cooperative, established in 1965, as saying. Even Colomba Mongiello, a lawmaker in Italy who has been pressing for changes in the draft legislation, said that everyone related to olive industry in the country has been opposing the decree since it was drafted.

In an email, Mongiello wrote that since the priority of the government is to promote genuine 'made in Italy' products, there should not move to be lax against fraud or counterfeiting. She suggested stringent punishment against anyone found guilty of damaging the country's image abroad.

Meanwhile, the commissions in both houses of the Italian Parliament also endorsed more stringent sanctions on fake labeling and recommended that the decree should have provisions to enforce a six-month production ban on repeated offenders.

In fact, Italy witnessed a sharp rise in olive oil fraud in 2015 following a poor harvest, coupled with invasion by olive oil flies that led to widespread olive tree disease.

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