You may have heard about Italy's recent bust of a major counterfeit olive oil ring, but that's not the only ruse being perpetrated in the lucrative olive market. A recent sting operation found a stash of over 85,000 tons of ripe green olives, which would be normal for any olive purveyor except that these olives weren't ripe at all, they were just painted to look that way. Counterfeiters were trying to pass off old and spoiled olives as fresh in an attempt to cash in on an ongoing shortage that's driven olive prices upward.
The paint in question is a compound called copper sulphate, a fungicide which not only gives a past-due olive's dark skin a new green sheen, but also goes virtually undetected by the average inspection. Anyone who may have accidentally ingested the phony fruits isn't in too much danger. According to Cornell University's toxicology experts, copper sulphate is "only moderately toxic," meaning our bodies would, uh, reject the olives before they could be digested. That being the case, it doesn't seem like the best business model to sell nausea-inducing olives, even if it is a criminal enterprise.