Lidl and Bertolli fined €550k for fake 'extra virgin' olive oil

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12:41 CEST+02:00
The first of the recently increased sanctions against 'deceitful' olive oil have been handed out, with discount supermarket Lidl and Deoleo - the owners of the popular Bertolli brand - hit hard.

Lidl was hit by a fine of €550,000 by Italy's antitrust authority, which found that its Primadonna brand of extra virgin olive oil was incorrectly labelled, consumer magazine Consumatrici reported.

Meanwhile Spanish company Deoleo received a €300,000 fine for branding malpractice after some of its Bertolli, Sasso and Carapelli 'extra virgin' oils were found to be simply 'virgin olive oil', a lower grade of olive. The oils in question were Bertolli gentile, Sasso classico and Carapelli il frantolio.

The investigation into the quality of extra virgin oil on sale in Italy began back in 2015. An investigation by a consumers' magazine analysed the extra virgin olive oil produced by 20 of the most popular brands, and found that nine of them falsely claimed to be extra virgin.

Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, and extra virgin oils use the most time-consuming and expensive production method. 

READ MORE: Like a virgin - How to spot fake extra virgin olive oil

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The penalties for false or misleading labelling of olive oil were increased significantly this month, as part of a long-running campaign to protect the quality of Italian olive oils. Incorrect or missing information regarding the category of olive used can now see manufacturers hit with fines of up to €15,000 for each breach, compared to €2,500 previously.

Another law comes into force from July 1st, increasing the fines for 'country sounding' - using symbols or images associated with a country where the olives didn't come from. Manufacturers falling foul of this rule could be fined €18,000, up from €2,000 - and the fine applies even if the label correctly states the origin.

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