Record global olive oil consumption despite widespread fraud

A recent article by Forbes has stated that despite the widely reported fraud in the olive oil industry, consumers are purchasing olive oil in record quantities.

Wrongly-labelled olive oil continues to enter markets and well-known olive oil brands remain on supermarket shelves despite being investigated for oil adulteration.

According to Forbes, olive oil consumption has increased by 73% in the last 25 years to 3,295,911 tons. Meanwhile, foul play has become even more rampant with illegal activity racking up estimated revenues of €16 billion last year in Italy alone.

The main reasons cited include the evolution of dietary habits in major markets such as the U.S. where consumption is up 250% over 25 years to 339,512 tons, and new markets such as Russia, Brasil and Japan. Japan has seen an increase of 1400% over 25 years to 66,000 tons. Italy still tops the group in terms of olive oil consumption at 640,000 tons, followed by Spain at 540,000 tons.



However, there has been some evidence in consumers reacting to widespread olive oil fraud. The Olive Oil Times reported that Italy’s olive oil exports fell by 16% in 2015. Coldiretti, the national farmers association in Italy, sees this as an increasingly strong demand in the United States (the main non-EU market for Italy) for transparency of the origin of products.

Additionally, The Local reported on Thursday that an EU decision was made to remove customs duty on Tunisian olive oil (70,000 tons over the next two years) to help Tunisia’s stricken economy. Colditetti criticised the decision which could easily be mixed with Italian olive oils and marketed internationally as ‘Made in Italy’, as a result “It doesn’t help Tunisian producers, harms Italian ones and increases the risk that consumers will be exposed to fraud,” said Coldiretti president Roberto Moncalvo.

Talking about tackling fraud, Monclavo highlighted the need to “tighten the legislation with the full implementation of the rules that have been introduced with the “saves oil” law, (n. 9/2013)” including sensory evaluation and import quality checks. ““Credibility is the key to succeeding in international markets” he stated, urging “renewed commitment at the level of environmental, social and economic sustainability”.