Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 12:32 UK

Italy confiscates fake olive oil

A handful of olives (generic image)
Italy is Europe's second-largest olive oil producer

Italian police have arrested 25 people in the south of the country suspected of selling adulterated vegetable oil as extra virgin olive oil.

Police say sunflower oil was mixed with chlorophyll and beta-carotene to give it olive oil's characteristic colour.

Some 15,000 cans, 33,000 labels, 2,800 one-litre bottles of oil and 250kg of chlorophyll were also seized, along with seven olive oil factories.

Italy is Europe's second-largest producer of olive oil, behind Spain.

"We have confiscated 25,000 litres of this oil, a large portion of which was on the verge of being exported, mainly to the US and Germany," police spokesman Antonio Citarella told AFP news agency.

The scam involved some 39 people, 14 of whom have been placed under house arrest, who produced olive oil sold under various brands.

The investigation began in October 2006 after several complaints about the quality of olive oil sold in markets in the northern town of Turin.

According to Italy's La Repubblica website, cheap vegetable oil was purchased from the US and colorants added to bring its colour closer to that of real olive oil.

The head of a local consumers' association complained that olive oil was simply the latest food scare to hit Italy.

"After wine and mozzarella, now olive oil - another of our country's specialities - is at the centre of a scandal," Primo Mastrantoni was quoted as telling the Ansa news agency.

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