Italy's kiwifruit industry has suffered a further setback after an investigation by Giuseppe Miliano, the public prosecutor for Lazio, found that an "illegal and cancerous" phytosanitary substance was being imported from China and applied to a number of kiwifruit orchards in the region.
As part of the investigation, which began at the start of last year, a 49 year-old man from Faenza, further north in Emilia-Romagna, has reportedly been arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods, having been found in possession of two bottles of Forchlorfenuron – the substance in question.
Another man, believed to be a farmworker also based in Faenza, is also understood to have been arrested and charged with posession of the pesticide, which was apparently found in bottles bearing the labels of "a well-known water brand".
Although Forchlorfenuron can apparently boost kiwifruit yields significantly, the prosecutor said the substance could also lead to skin irritation, nausea and vomiting.
According to the report, a secret laboratory sent bottles of the product to growers who, separately, received false labels printed with the name of a legal substance.
Around 186 tonnes of Forchlorfenuron a year, worth an estimated €1.3m, are believed to have been imported into the country.
As a region, Lazio turns out the largest single kiwifruit crop in the country, producing around 7,000 tonnes (30 per cent) of the total 23,000-tonne national deal.