The Olive Deception
Olive oil is big business. Each year, Americans spend $700 million on it. Or in most cases, what they believe is olive oil. Some estimates are that two-thirds of the common grocery store brands are not true olive oil but bastardized forms. These forms, labeled as extra virgin olive oil, often include mixtures of other cheaper oils such as safflower, soy and hazelnut.
The deception isn’t limited to the inexpensive brands; it includes gourmet varieties as well. Profits from these commonly occurring oil scams compare to cocaine trafficking (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mueller)
Because extra virgin olive oil is touted for its myriad health benefits and production is time-consuming, this oil has always been more valuable than others. The recent discovery of deception is nothing new; olive oil fraud has been occurring since ancient time, when it was referred to as liquid gold.
Today, the fraud continues with concoctions labeled as extra virgin olive oil containing blends of cheaper oils, additives like beta-carotene and chlorophyll, and low-grade, non-culinary olive oil. Comprehensive laboratory tests conducted at University of CA/Davis “indicated that the IOC [International Olive Council] and USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] chemistry standards often do not detect defective olive oils that fail extra virgin sensory standard”. These same tests portray a trend in the olive oils they sampled: oxidation, adulteration with cheaper oils and “poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing ﬂaws, and/or improper oil storage”
The fraud is not limited to country of origin. That expensive European blend you favor may be subject. Store shelves are lined with inferior products claiming to be extra virgin. Counterfeit bottles are from all over the world, including some produced in the United States. A recent NPR interview shares that some American shoppers are the only virgins: never having tasted true extra virgin olive oil (http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=12571726).
Buying your next extra virgin bottle:
- Select oils that are certified by the IOC.
- Taste test at specialty stores. Low-grade oils are more acidic, tasting peppery.
- Skip ‘Light’ olive oil. The only thing light about it is: color, taste and quality.
- Look for small reputable farms. California has some passionate olive producers providing high-quality products.
Several brands to support (according to the above study):
- Corto Olive
- California Olive Ranch
- Kirkland Organic (Costco)
- Lucero (Ascolano)
- McEvoy Ranch Organic
I recently purchased directly from Lucero thru their online store. Though, you can purchase some of these thru Amazon.com and iherb.com.
“You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)