This week, seven people—all belonging to the same family—were arrested and accused of selling adulterated sunflower oil and calling it extra virgin olive oil. They were selling it for half off the market price and claiming that it was directly from legit olive oil producers.
The fraudulent activity was uncovered in Thessaly—a province in Greece. The family had used dye to alter the color of sunflower oil, transforming it from yellow to the greenish hue that natural olive oil possesses. The dye, according to The Hellenic Food Authority (HFA)—who sets quality standards in the area—underwent testing and was reportedly safe to use. However, there are reports of a different dye that had been used earlier in the family’s operation that may have contained carcinogenic chemicals.
The fake olive oil was sold in Greece and internationally. Still, authorities arrived in time to seize 5 palletized tons of packaged oil, and in the process they discovered another 12 tons that were waiting to be exported.
HFA first learned of the fraudulent activity back in 2015 when legit olive oil producers discovered that their unique codes were being used on brands they did not produce or sell.
Each family member has been charged with defrauding the state, issuing false documents and money laundering. They will appear in court later this week to be questioned by a magistrate judge.