In addition to these deceptive sourcing and packaging practices, counterfeit EVOO is rampant. 80% of the olive oil in the U.S. is mislabeled, and testing in 2011 revealed that the five most popular brands in the United States failed to meet legal standards three-quarters of the time.
This flood of fake EVOO on the market is not only costly to consumers; it can also be dangerous to their health. With deadly seed and soybean allergies on the rise, hidden allergens in this so-called “olive oil” could lead to serious adverse reactions among consumers -- resulting in hospitalization or even, in some cases, death.
Because of this ongoing problem, organizations like the FDA in America and a special branch of the Italian Carabinieri are working to reduce fraud and counterfeit along the olive oil supply chain. Tighter quality controls, refinery raids, and in-depth testing of products have resulted in record seizures of counterfeit EVOO in Italy.
Though rates of counterfeit seizures skyrocketed in 2014, counterfeiters are finding ways to sneak past detection through illegal means such as processing their product with heat or chemicals. Even if caught, the well-connected producers are rarely prosecuted.