Food Crime Is the Pits

Italian police seize 85,000 tons of tainted olives

Italian police are on a counterfeit-busting tear. Just a few days after police announced a bust involving 9,000 bottles of fake Mo√ęt & Chandon outside of Venice, Italian forestry police arrested 19 people for attempting to sell 85,000 metric tons of olives tainted with copper sulphate, reports The Guardian. The chemical, which is found in some pesticides, was used to turn olives from last year's harvest a bright green color so they could be passed off as fresh. If eaten, the chemical can cause nausea and vomiting.

Police also seized 7,000 tons of olive oil in Puglia, where six people who are now under investigation were purportedly trying to package non-Italian olive oil and sell it as Italian extra virgin. The 2014-2015 olive oil season in Italy was hurt by bad weather and fruit flies, leaving the industry particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting.

The recent busts are just a fraction of a larger problem: The black market for counterfeit Italian food stuffs is estimated to be $1.1 billion a year.