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PARAGRAPH 38-OLIVE OIL.
Imports of merchandise-years ending June 30, 1907–1911-Continued. OLIVE OIL, EXCEPT FOR MANUFACTURING OR MECHANICAL PURPOSES (DUTI
Turkey in Asia.
British- Australia and Tasmania.....
PARAGRAPH 38-OLIVE OIL.
STATEMENT OF ANTONIO ZUCCA, REPRESENTING ZUCCA & CO.
Mr. ZUCCA. I present myself before this honorable committee as a veteran merchant selling pure olive oil, never having sold a package of other than the pure article.
Forty-two years ago I commenced to sell said product, at which time I was disposing of only a few hundred cases a year; at present I sell about 30,000 cases and several thousand barrels annually.
Although the duty of about 50 per cent of the cost of olive oil is heavy, its consumption has steadily increased, on account of the increase of the Latin immigration; in view also of the fact that the American people find the use of oil a healthy and excellent condiment and its employment for cooking, illness, cleanliness unsurpassed.
Olive oil is really a necessity of life that should be sold at prices within the reach of the masses.
I supported the passage of the "pure-food law," preventing the entry and selling in this country of other than the pure olive oil when so branded. Before the passage of said bill much of the olive oil sold to the public was a mixture of cottonseed and other vegetable oils, which, although perhaps not injurious to the health, on the other hand, was not beneficial. The law is very strict as regards the importation of the pure product; nevertheless the masses are not protected by it, as adulterated olive oil is packed and sold in this country by simply branding the bottle or can containing the same with very attractive labels and names sufficiently deceiving to keep the unscrupulous dealers within the law, while in small type the word “compound” is placed on the labels. The quantity of this kind of oil sold is far in excess of that of the pure. The package and price is attractive to the consumer, and the seller realizes a much larger profit than he could ever make by dealing in the pure article, with the advantage of being able to give a much higher percentage to the selling agent. The pure-food commissioners are helpless in taking any action in the matter, as the package is branded “compound” or is bearing such other misleading phrases.
In my opinion, there is but one way to restrict the selling of this compound oil,” which is actually an adulterated food product, and that is by reducing the tariff on pure oil to a rate that will not yield any profit by selling a compound oil, such duty to be 20 or 25 cents per gallon on packages and in bulk; for this reason, that the present fower rate of io cents per gallon on oil imported in bulk, when it is put into packages here, is mixed with a cheaper grade of olive oil, but is sold to the public as a finer quality than it actually is. By such a measure the strictly pure olive oil can be sold to the masses at just as low a figure as the adulterated, making it unprofitable to anybody who tries to adulterate the article and sell it for pure.
True, California produces some olive oil, but in such a small quantity as to be insufficient to supply the demand of the State, or even of one city.
The importation of olive oil in California is quite large, and a lower tariff would be an advantage to California, even when the State produces a larger quantity, and that will take some time, as olive trees bear fruit only after having been planted many years, a tree 50 years old being considered a full-bearing tree.
PARAGRAPH 38-OLIVE OIL.
Let the people have olive oil at reasonable prices. It should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity of life. Dyspepsia is unknown illness in oil-producing countries, and is due in a great part to the free use of pure olive oil.
In conclusion, I sincerely hope this honorable committee will consider it important for the good of the masses to reduce the tariff on olive oil, that the same may be obtainable in every home at a moderate cost.
I will say this, gentlemen of the committee, that I am in favor of a specific duty, for the reason it is good for the Government and good for the merchant. With the ad valorem duty we always have had trouble, on account of differential prices on the other side.
Another thing I will say: As far as revenue is concerned the consumption of olive oil in the United States is about 10,000,000 gallons a year, of which four and a half millions come from Italy, France, and Spain, and some from Greece. California produces about 800,000 gallons. The other 5,000.000 or less than 5,000,000 gallons that is sold is only this compound oil. It is not bad oil; it is cottonseed oil, or peanut oil, probably; but certainly it is not very beneficial to the health.
If you reduce the duty, say, one-half of what it is to-day, from 50 cents to 25 cents, I am pretty sure they will have to drop business in this compound oil or they will fail. And then, instead of the importation of four and a half million gallons, there will be nine or ten million gallons of oil, which will give the same revenue to the United States Government. The cottonseed-oil merchants probably will complain, but there are a lot of countries where they have no purefood laws, and they will not prohibit the cottonseed oil produced in such countries.
Mr. Harrison. I want to ask you a question. I believe you are one of the best-known Italian-Americans in our city. Is it not true that among the people of Mediterranean birth, who live in the big cities of the East, olive oil is a common substitute for butter?
Mr. ZUCCA. Yes.
Mr. HARRISON. And it is known as Italian butter among these people?
Mr. Zucca. I eat three eggs every morning, and they are fried in oil.
Mr. HARRISON. It is a matter of general consumption in the families of these people in all eastern cities?
Mr. ZUCCA. Yes, sir. I like steak in butter, but other things we fry in oil. In our family of four or five we use from a gallon and a half to 2 gallons of oil every week.
Mr. NEEDHAM. You do not consider it a luxury, do you?
Mr. NEEDHAM. My distinguished opponent who defeated me in the last campaign said that olive oil was a luxury, and under the Democratic theory they would increase the duty if they were elected. You do not agree with him?
Mr. Zucca. I do not know anything about the theory. And I am not a prophet.
Mr. Rainey. I presume you have had opportunities to observe the manufacture of the oil ?
PARAGRAPH 38-OLIVE OIL.
Mr. ZUCCA. Yes, sir.
Mr. ZUCCA. The gentleman from California is wrong in what he stated. They have a perfect way in Italy and in Spain for making the oil; even in Africa that is the case.
Mr. RAINEY. How about the cleanliness of their methods in mak
Mr. Zucca. It is very clean. I have been in Lucca, and throughout the Riviera, in northern Italy. It is very clean indeed.
Mr. Rainey. Have you seen them making olive oil in California ?
Mr. ZUCCA. I do not believe there is any. I believe California has the latest methods. But the best methods are also used in the best places in Italy.
Mr. Rainey. Which is the better, the California oil or that imported from Mediterranean countries?
Mr. ZUCCA. I think there is no difference whatever between that which is made at the best places. It is well done in California, and it is well done in Italy and France and Spain.
Mr. RAINEY. Did you notice any difference in its manufacture? Mr. ZUCCA. No, I do not believe so. Not in the first-class houses. Mr. RAINEY. Somebody stated something here about pressing out olive oil in the hands, or something of that kind.
Mr. ZUCCA. Oh, no. It is all done by machinery, in bags. First they pick out the bad olives; take them out. Then the olives are put
; into bags, and then the first grade of oil is abstracted, then the second grade, and then they put hot water on it and get the third-class oil, which is machinery oil.
Mr. RAINEY. Is there a kind of government supervision over there? Mr. ZUCCA. Oh, yes. Mr. Rainey. Do they look after cleanliness? Mr. Zucca. Oh, yes. No package of oil goes away from the city of Lucca which has not a certificate from the board of health given with the invoice.
Mr. Rainey. Is the oil they export as good as that which they keep for home consumption!
Mr. Zucca. They are not so particular about machinery oil. There is a lot that comes for machinery purposes. They neutralize the oil.
Mr. RAINEY. For what they send over to us, do they require the same sort of health certificate as at home?
Mr. Zucca. I guess not; I do not think so. They are putting some sulphur there.
Mr. RAINEY. They are not so careful about what we eat as they are about what they eat over there?
Mr. Zucca. They are very clean, as far as I saw. I go quite often to Italy, and I have been in Spain and in Greece, and in the best places they use very clean methods. I guess the gentleman from California must have been there possibly 50 years ago.
Mr. JAMES. Do not they require the same stamp on the oil they ship to us, which is required for that which they use among the people at home?
PARAGRAPH 38-OLIVE OIL.
Mr. ZUCCA. Yes; the board of health supervises that.
Mr. JAMES. When it comes out of the factory, the same stamp is required if it is to be exported as if it is to be used over there?
Mr. ZUCCA. Not the same, because there the board of health certifies they have a hundred cases of oil from Lucca which has been shipped to Zucca & Co., New York, or to somebody else, and attached to the invoice is a certificate from the board of health stating that the supervisor has been there and examined the oil, as to how they make it, how they pack it, and everything else, which is in that certificate from the board of health.
Mr. Dixon. How about the quality of the oil in California and there?
Mr. ZUCCA. It is the same in the best places. California oil is very fine. Some of it has a strong taste, the same as the California wine, because the imported wine is more fine, because the soil has been worked more. It is the same about the California oil. I tasted it, and some of it has a little of that soil taste. That is probably because the soil is too rich.
Mr. RAINEY. Suppose those Italian boards of health should refuse to stamp a lot of oil manufactured because it was not up to the standard. What would they do with it? How would they dispose of it?
Mr. Zucca. They would dispose of it there, I suppose. They do it. Mr. RAINEY. They could not dispose of it there, could they?
Mr. ZUCCA. Olive oil, you know, is not sent only to the United States. Down in Central America they use it in large quantities, and they have no pure-food law.
Mr. RAINEY. Then it is sent out of the country, what they can not use there?
Mr. ZUCCA. Yes. They send it to South America, and they send it to South Africa; all places.
Mr. Rainey. They are just as likely to send it over here, are they not?
Mr. Zucca. They can not do that, because the oil is examined by the pure food commissioners—every lot of oil received. When we get an invoice of a lot of oil we find two or three cans that have been taken from the cases and examined by the pure food people. If they find anything mixed with it, they do not allow it to enter into the country, and it has got to go back. They send it back to the other side.
Mr. PETERS. The Italian olive oil imported here is examined as to its condition, both in Italy and in this country?
Mr. ZUCCA. It is; not only the Italian, but every oil, except machinery oil, which is examined. They neutralize it in such a way that it could not be used for eating purposes.
Mr. PETERS. Will you tell us whether the Italian olive oil sent here for consumption is subjected to the same examination in Italy as if it was to be consumed there?
Mr. ZUCCA. Yes; by the board of health, the local board of health. It is a local law for the benefit of the honest producer there.