23rd June 2024
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11 arrests, as police seize 260,000 litres of unconsumable ‘extra virgin oil’

Spain’s Guardia Civil, working in conjunction with the Italian Carabinieri and Europol, have made 11 arrests and sized over 260,000 litres of olive oil that is ‘unfit for consumption’ – the three police agencies said in a statement.

In a coordinated action during November, the Spanish and Italian law enforcement officials conducted searches in various locations. Around Ciudad Real in Spain, 11 suspects were detained and 12 barrels containing 260,000 litres of ‘adulterated oil’ were seized, the statement said. The officers also seized four vehicles and €91,000 in cash, as well as digital and physical evidence such as billing documents and e-mails.

In the Italian regions of Sicily and Tuscany, investigators inspected three oil factories suspected to be involved in the illegal practices. Several fiscal documents and clients lists were acquired, oil samples gathered, and one company was sanctioned for irregular labelling of its products. Europol deployed a specialist with a mobile office to Spain, allowing for quick cross-matches against Europol databases.

In the food fraud operation, investigators uncovered that the criminals used so-called ‘lampante oil’, the lower-quality variant of olive oil, to dilute their product. Lampante olive oil is characterised by ‘elevated acidity levels, an undesirable flavour, and a distinctly unpleasant odour, which make it unsuitable for consumption’, the police said. The term ‘lampante’ itself originates from its historical use as a fuel in oil lamps.

A mix of various factors, such as the general inflation of prices, reduced olive oil production and increasing demand, have created the perfect breeding ground for fraudulent producers.

Mixing consumer-grade olive oil with lower grade alternatives allowed the criminals to offer competitive prices while entering legal supply chains, the police said. This illegal practice can not only cause a public health risk, but also undermine consumer trust and thus have further economic repercussions, the statement concluded.

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