Despite being a kitchen cupboard staple, olive oil is one of the most fraudulent foodstuffs out there. From mixing vegetable oils and passing them off as the real stuff to lying about country of origin, scammers have found numerous ways to sell low-quality olive oil at premium prices. And thanks to misleading labels (what does "extra virgin" actually mean?) and lack of regulation within the industry, most of us have no idea how to spot a fake.
Italy feels this olive oil fraud worse than most. Despite being the second largest olive oil producer in the EU, a report from Forbes last year found that as much as 80 percent of oil proclaiming to be Italian was fake, either wrongly labeled as "extra virgin" or mixed with low quality oils from abroad. The Italian government has since toughened laws on olive oil packaging, but the problem persists.
A new smartphone app hopes to combat this. Reliability was launched this month by a non-profit organisation of the same name, and allows users to scan the barcode of "Made in Italy" products to find out whether they really are of Italian origin. When the product is scanned, the app brings up a photo and information on how it was made.
Reliability's makers say that it can be used in Italy or abroad and works on a range of Italian-made items, even clothes and glassware.
Because Italian manufacturers must choose whether to sign up to the app, its database is still in development. However the organisation has promised to invest all revenue into further promotion of Italian products.
Food fraudsters, beware: it seems there really is an app for that.