– Fake Italian organic food sold around Europe: police (AFP, Dec. 6, 2011):
Fake organic products from Italy have been sold around Europe, Italian police said on Tuesday as they announced the results of an inquiry that has led to seven arrests and the seizure of 2,500 tons of food.
The police said 700,000 tons of illegal organic products valued at 220 million euros ($295 million) had been sold over several years across Italy and to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The people arrested included executives from three agro-business companies — Sunny Land, Sona and Bioecoitalia — as well as the local director of a certifying body from the Marche farming region of central Italy.
Italy’s main association of organic producers, AIAB, said the inquiry “sheds light on the weaknesses of the sector in controls over the import of raw materials, particularly those used for livestock like soya and barley.”
It said there were also insufficient checks in the production of organic bread and pasta and warned that there should be more checks to avoid “mafia infiltration” in a sector that is booming in contrast to farming in general.
The farm group Coldiretti called for “more traceability” of organic food.
Italy’s organic food sector has an annual turnover of three billion euros — triple what it was 10 years ago — and Italy is the country in Europe with the highest number of organic producers and organically cultivated land.