Monthly Archives: April 2011

Argentina: Still the third world

Here in Sicily, a laborer can earn up to 50 Euros ($70+) per day picking olives from the trees for us to process. That’s not a bad wage at all for low-skilled manual labor, is it? It’s a different story in Argentina, however, where low-skilled manual laborers earn between $2.46 and $3.45 for every 44-pound bag they fill with olives according to this report: Lack of Farm Workers in Argentina Weakens Vulnerable Olive Oil Industry.

In 2011 olive cultivation in Cuyo is expected to grow an astonishing 40 percent, but nearly half of this green gold will never make it to store shelves. There are simply not enough workers to harvest the olives, which must be individually handpicked and harvested. Industry leaders say they have never seen such a scarcity of labor in both the olive and grape sectors, despite a 2010 presidential decree providing migrant workers with universal child allowance and other benefits. In general Bolivian workers, not native Argentines, are the ones who rely on these services, but rarely access them due to the enormous time and effort it takes to get on the social assistance payroll. Still many workers receive the government handouts yet don’t report to work. Bolivians are superior workers, according to Arizu, who says that a typical Bolivian can produce 14 bags of olives a day whereas the average Argentine laborer brings in just eight.

At $2.46 per sack, 14 sacks of olives amounts to about $35, or nearly half what a laborer in Sicily would earn for a day’s work. It appears that Argentina’s olive oil producers are in a bind — they don’t have enough laborers to harvest their crops, but if they increase wages to attract the laborers, they’ll be uncompetitive in the global market, where olive oil prices have sunk due to the fact that so many major producers are not meeting global standards for quality and are blending their olive oil with cheaper oils and cutting corners across the board. Such is the way of things. Mamamiafoods doesn’t cut corners and we don’t water our oils down like so many competitors do, yet we still beat them on price. We account for more than 40% of all olive oil produced in Sicily in and Southern Italy, and that’s why.

Harvesting olives pays well if you work for the industry's high quality firms.

More Bad Labeling

Well, faulty advertising on the label is not restricted to Olive Oil.

Labels for Del Monte Seafood Cocktail Sauce, Contadina Pizza Sauce, Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, and other tomato sauces, spaghetti sauces, and purees deceptively claim they are “Made from California Vine-ripened Tomatoes,” contain “Select 100% California Tomatoes,” or use “only the finest tomatoes” when, in fact, they are reconstituted from industrial tomato concentrate. In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Consumers League (NCL) urged the agency to warn the food industry that claims implying that products are made from fresh ingredients when they are actually made from concentrate are deceptive under federal law. NCL also reiterated its 2009 request that FDA require that all fruit and vegetable products remanufactured from concentrate state “From Concentrate” on the fronts of food packages. “Consumers are paying premium prices for products that imply they are made from fresh ingredients, but are really remanufactured from concentrate,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL.

Here's a product you don't want to buy.

But wait, there’s good news: Mamamiafoods sells Tomato Sauce and it’s a 100% authentic Italian product made with fresh ingredients!

A View Inside

Here’s a special treat from Mamamiafoods: a glimpse inside one of our oleificios (what would be called “oil mills” in English). This is one of our several Sicilian mills:

Some of our tanks:

Another view of the outside:

And here you can see that Mamamiafoods still uses the same old stone pressing technique which assures you that our meticulous adherence to the ancient production methods provides the highest possible quality of olive oil. This is the absolute best method for extracting oil from the olive — far superior to centrifuge machines or chemical techniques:

Here’s a view of the factory floor where the olives are examined and sorted and sifted:

State of the art equipment for testing and packaging:

Hope you enjoyed this brief tour of one of our plants. When I tell you we’re the best at what we do, clearly I’m not joking!

Fed Up With Phonies!

Are you using real extra-virgin olive oil? Studies say probably not!

Think that extra-virgin olive oil you’ve been buying is the high-quality real deal? Think again, people. The problem of phony oil persists, and it is a global issue. In Australia, The Weekly Times has busted a whole slew of deceitful vendors:

Extra virgin is the premium category of olive oil, but NSW government laboratory testing has found products made by Moro, Carbonell, Isabella, Bertolli and Paese Mio did not live up to the title. Testing by consumer group Choice found Italian brands Lupi, Bertolli, Bionature and Colavita as well as Spanish brands La Espanola, Always Fresh and Vetta had also incorrectly used the label. Coles discounted Moro, imported La Espanola and its Coles brand of extra virgin olive oil recently. Woolworths discounted Moro and Carbonell. The other brands continue to be sold in supermarkets except the Paese Mio, which Coles pulled following the NSW government laboratory findings.

As this blog has been explaining, the olive oil industry is rife with such fraud. It’s very difficult for non-Sicilian producers to compete with those of us who sell real extra-virgin olive oil. Simply put, our price points are lower because our costs are lower. We’ve been doing this since the dawn of civilization. In many places, consumers who are fed up with being sold bogus products and producers who are fed up with fraudulent labeling have been petitioning their governments to take action. California is one place where the legislature has responded:

The state Senate Health Committee took the first step in tightening standards for “extra virgin” olive oil by passing a bill from State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. The label extra virgin olive oil is widely misused by imported olive oils, recent studies show. According to a news release, Wolk’s Senate Bill 818 passed on a 9-0 bipartisan vote. “We can’t allow our state to be a dumping ground for bad imported oil sold to unsuspecting consumers at premium prices,” Wolk said in the release. “Standards are not only critical to farmers and producers who compete with foreign imports, but more importantly to consumers.”

In California, this is the percentage of imported olive oil which FAILED laboratory tests to determine if they were labeled properly!

In fact, a 2010 report by UC Davis that analyzed olive oil sold at retail in three California regions found that 69 percent of the imported samples did not meet international and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for “extra virgin” olive oil. “The study showed that the oils that failed were old, of poor quality, and/or adulterated with cheaper oils,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UCD Olive Center, who testified at the hearing.

Read that again: “69 percent of the imported samples did not meet international and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for “extra virgin” olive oil.” If you want real extra-virgin olive oil, tell your grocer to import the high quality 100% Italian Mamamiafoods products. Why pay more for a phony product when you can pay less and get the real thing?