A sting operation in Italy has yielded an unlikely cache of loot: Over 85,000 tonnes of freshly painted green olives that police just seized from food counterfeiters. The Guardian reported on the newest trick forgers are employing to fake out olive-eaters: a coating of copper sulphate, a plant fungicide considered so unlikely to be used for that purpose that no one was even bothering to test for it.
So just what does it do besides dye your olives a bright green shade? Cornell University's Toxicology Extension Unit describes the compound as usually "only moderately toxic" when ingested. This description manages to become less innocuous, however, when the toxicologists explain that the reason that the substance is seldom fully toxic is that most people vomit it up before it can be digested. Beyond that, it also has a metallic taste and can cause a burning sensation in the stomach, nausea and headaches.
In other words, it certainly would have been noticed before long. In truth, though, that's the case for almost all food counterfeiting.
Food markets move fast to keep up with quickly fluctuating supply and demand. In this case, Italy just had a truly terrible olive season which led to an olive shortage, followed by high olive prices. With plenty of old, spoiling olives — and much fewer new, fresh olive — unscrupulous food frauds were hoping to take advantage of the situation. Instead, though, Italian police now have 85,000 tonnes of vaguely metallic-tasting expired olives and 19 new food criminals awaiting trial.
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