BAC 2008


Poisonous Olive Oil

PART ONE:Reading (15Points)

A)COMPREHENSION     (08pts)                                                                                                   

                      Read the passage carefully then do the activities.


            The story is one of tragedy and fraud. It started in May 1981, when travelling salesmen in Northern and central Spain started selling cheap olive oil. They guaranteed that it was pure, and had sold vast quantities around Madrid, Valladolid and Leon, before anyone realized that it was wrong.


            Like most Mediterranean countries, Spain uses olive oil in its cooking. When people started falling ill in May, nobody suspected that it was the cooking oil which was the cause of the illness. It was a medical mystery: doctors and scientists were completely baffled by the spread of the disease.


            There were several theories about what was happening. At first, it was thought that bad fish had caused food poisoning, and later, that it was rotten fruit. It was until June that children’s doctor in Madrid made the connection between the sickness and the oil. Immediately, the government started issuing public warnings, and offered to take any suspect oil, giving pure oil exchange. This stopped the spread of the poison. But it was too late for the thousands of people who had already eaten the contaminated substance. People who had been affected could not eat or sleep, had pains all over their body, suffered headaches and fevers, and had difficulty in breathing. Some of them even died.


            Doctors and scientists were still not sure what the poison was. The most popular theory was that a Spanish company imported some industrial oil from France, and tried to remove the impurities by boiling it at 200°C. They mixed it with a small amount of olive oil to give it a taste, and then sent it to the salesmen to sell as pure olive oil. When they boiled the oil, however, they created a new substance, which was poisonous and unknown to the medical authorities. At one time, twenty thousand people in Spain were analyzing the oil, trying to find a cure for the poison. By March 1982, they had still not found a way of curing the illness caused by the oil. The Spanish health Ministry admitted that all antidotes so far tried had been unsuccessful. While the medical authorities were carrying out the various analyses, the police arrested fourteen people suspected of being responsible for the oil poisoning.


                                                       Adapted from Modern English International

                                                                           Number 5, May 1982

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