Teatro Naturale, an Italian online newspaper dedicated to food, agriculture, and the environment recently reported some sad news about Made in Italy.
The Los Angeles Times organized the LA Food Bowl, a food and wine festival. It collaborated with many cultural institutes from countries with excellent food traditions. The Italian Cultural Institute of LA participated, and chose extra virgin olive oil to represent Italy. The event was well attended, even the Console Generale of Italy and the Director of the agency ICE of Los Angeles were there.
Which EVOO company did they choose to represent the excellence of Italian EVOO? The Italian Cultural Institute chose Filippo Berio. As the Teatro Natural article says, “Filippo Berio celebrates 150 years in business, but the company is owned by Salov Spa, a Chinese company that packs and sells olive oil from all over Europe.” If you read the Filippo Berio label, it says “Imported from Italy,” but that doesn’t mean that the olive oil is 100% Italian; legally the oil could be from ANYWHERE, as long as it is packed in Italy. Filippo Berio is actually facing a class action suit in California for committing fraud by mislabeling and minimizing the actual origins of the olive oil.
This story is a tragedy. This is not how Italy and Italian food should be represented. We need to all work together to protect the honest Italian farmers. Italian extra virgin olive oil should be 100% Italian, from growing the olives to packaging the oil.
What is perhaps even more disappointing than bad EVOO production practices is that the Italian authorities accept and even celebrate oils like Filippo Berio. Not only is their support an insult to honest Italian EVOO producers but promoting these poorly made products disrupts the fair trade market. If we continue like this, honest Italian farmers can forget about making a living wage by producing EVOO.