Report links imported olive oil to the mafia

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) For those in the olive oil industry, money does grow on trees, and where there’s money to be made, there are often those looking to cut in on the profits.

Local businessman Dan D’Avolio heads up his family business that bottles, sells and serves olive oil. D’Avolio, whose last name literally is Italian for olive oil, said there are those who wish to taint olive oil, watering it down with other oils to increase profits.

D’Avolio’s family business sells the freshest olive oil available in western New York, as he works with his California supplier.

“Our supplier buys it, tests it there, and then it is tested again when it comes into California to make sure it is the same stuff,” D’Avolio said. “Then she distributes it to her distributors in the United States, so I know when we get it, we are getting the good stuff.”

According to a 60 Minutes investigation, there is widespread fraud in the importing process of olive oil from Italy to the United States. Sources consulted in the investigation suggested as much as 80 percent of imported olive oil is tainted with other oils like sunflower oil or canola oil.

Stores like Wegmans have taken steps to ensure their olive oil maintains its quality and freshness.

“The concern about fraudulent extra virgin olive oil has been on our radar for some time,” Wegmans officials said in a statement. “Suppliers stand firmly behind the authentic nature and labeling of their products, and Wegmans recently joined the North American Oil Association, which will facilitate the testing of the product.”

For the average consumer, even the terminology surrounding olive oil can be confusing. D’Avolio delineated the differences between virgin, extra virgin and regular olive oil. He said extra virgin olive oil is produced when olives are crushed only once or twice for their oil. If crushed more, then the name drops to simply virgin olive oil. Further crushing and mixing in of flavoring forces olive oil producers to drop the title to just olive oil.

“It is liquid gold, it is the real good stuff for you — not the bad stuff, the good stuff,” D’Avolio said of extra virgin olive oil.

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