Join date: Dec 2008
Location: Ontario, CAN
Is Your Olive Oil Extra Virgin?
What's in the bottle doesnt always match up with what the label says...
by Charles Poliquin
1/12/2012 1:04:17 PM
Olive oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils because it is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Numerous studies provide evidence of the olive?s ability to prevent disease and promote well being. But recent reports indicate that more than half the olive oil on the supermarket shelf is not what the label says. Extra virgin olive oil, the highest quality that provides the most health benefits, is often still ?virgin? but it doesn?t pass the ?extra virgin? test.
Studies of the sensory quality and chemical content of olive oil indicate two primary concerns for anyone who uses olive oil for its health benefits. First, extra virgin olive oil may be adulterated with cheaper refined olive oil or it may be diluted with other less expensive oils such as soybean or hazelnut. If the olive oil is adulterated with other seed or nut oils, its quality and taste are compromised and it is no longer ?extra virgin.?
If the oil has cheaper olive oil added to it, quality and taste will again be compromised, but it may have gone through an oxidation process meaning it will contain a greater content of free radicals, which can damage tissues in the body. The poor quality of olives used to make refined oils make them ?not fit for human consumption? according to the International Olive Committee (IOC) and the USDA. But, that?s just the oil that you may be innocently purchasing because it has a fraudulent ?extra virgin? label!
Studies Show More than 50 Percent of Imported Olive Oil Is Not Extra Virgin
New evidence shows that more than 50 percent of olive oil on the market is not what the label claims. A study by the University of California at Davis Olive Center, in conjunction with other recent studies and media reports, have shown that many of the bottles labeled ?extra virgin olive oil? on supermarket shelves have been adulterated and shouldn?t be classified as extra-virgin. Perhaps even more concerning than the fact that many consumers are forking out big money for poor quality or adulterated cheap oil is that these versions don?t provide the health benefits and are, in fact, unhealthy.
With fewer sterols and polyphenols (the protective antioxidants naturally found in olives), more oxidized fats, and fewer ?good? fatty acids, adulterated or poor quality olive oil becomes the kind of fat you want to avoid.
The report from UC Davis comes on the heels of other studies that document poor quality and contaminated olive oil, both from domestic U.S. producers and foreign olive oil companies. You may be surprised to find that imported olive oil is much more likely to be fake or bad quality?the UC Davis report found that 69 percent of imported olive oil that was labeled as extra virgin failed to meet quality and authenticity standards from the USDA and the IOC.
The term ?extra virgin olive oil? means the olives used to make the oil are of a certain quality, the oil has been made from olives crushed in a certain way, contains no more than 0.8 percent acidity, and has not been refined with chemical solvents or high heat. Naturally, it shouldn?t have other oils such as hazelnut or soy oil added to it. Extra virgin olive oil should have distinct sensory flavors, and experienced tasters should be able to distinguish the between low and high quality ?extra virgin? and between extra virgin, virgin, and olive oil that?s been adulterated with other oils.
A Long History of Olive Oil Fraud
To meet the extra virgin standard is a costly process, which has led to fairly widespread olive oil fraud. In fact, the history of olive oil schemes appear to date back over two thousand years due to its utility in soaps and lotions (the health benefits extend to the skin and hair as well as the organs and tissues). Adulteration with cheaper oils appears to be the most common scam because fake oil is easy to pass off to innocent consumers. But with the growing demand for extra virgin olive oil, producers and marketers began labeling poorer quality olive oils as extra virgin.
UC Davis Study Shows 69 Percent of Imported Olive Oil Doesn?t Measure Up
The UC Davis study tested 14 imported and 5 California-grown brands with the extra virgin label from supermarkets in three different areas of California. They tested the oil for quality based on standards from the IOC and USDA, and then performed additional tests to determine the total polyphenol content and levels of oxidized fats.
Consuming oxidized fats is concerning because they are the kind of fat that can accelerate the buildup of plaque in the arteries that will lead to atherosclerosis. Oxidized fats from animals such as pork, chicken, and beef are likely more detrimental to health, but there is evidence that plant-based oxidized fats, particularly corn and cottonseed oil, may contribute to health problems as well. Of course, if you?re paying for what it supposed to be a high quality extra virgin olive oil, you don?t want it to contain oxidized fats before you even remove the cap.
The polyphenols are one type of antioxidants that are found in the olive, and of course you want to have higher quantities to reap the greatest health benefits from your oil. Lower levels of polyphenols indicate the content of oxidized free radicals in the oil that make the oil ?unhealthy.? Just as you want olive oil to have a high antioxidant content so that it can fight inflammation and neutralize radicals, you do not want the oil to contain free radicals that cause inflammation in the body. Plus the presence of oxidized compounds and low amounts of polyphenols indicate that the oil may be rancid, impure, refined, or contain other oils.
Of the imported olive oil samples in the UC Davis study, 69 percent did not meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil, whereas 10 percent of the California-grown olive oils did not. The faulty oils were found to have an average of 3.5 sensory defects such as ?rancid, fusty, and musty,? and should have ben classified at the lower grade of ?virgin.? The sensory defects indicate the oil was oxidized, poor quality and adulterated with cheaper refined oils.
The only positive finding from the study was that based on the fatty acid and sterol profiles of the oils, it is likely the adulteration was from cheap refined olive oil rather than other nut, seed or vegetable oils. This is ?positive? because if the oil had been adulterated by oils other than olive, it indicates more severe production fraud, and with the rise of nut and seed allergies, passing hazelnut or peanut oil off as olive oil can have immediate and serious health consequences.
The imported olive oil brands that demonstrated defective flavors and poor chemical content included:
365 100% Italian (Whole Foods brand)
Safeway Select Brand
Newman?s Own Organic
Remember, there were three samples of each brand from stores across California, and not all of the samples failed the extra-virgin test. For example, all three samples of Bertolli, Pompeian, Carapelli, Mezzetta, and Mazola failed, whereas only two samples of the Rachael Ray, Safeway, and 365 brands failed (see the chart below). Of the imported brands, Kirkland Organic performed the best with all three samples ranking in as ?extra virgin.?
The California-grown brands performed much better. Only one sample of Bariani oil failed the extra virgin test. McEvoy Ranch Organic, California Olive Ranch, Lucero, and Corto Olive all passed with flying colors. These brands are all available directly from each company and can also be found in gourmet stores and some supermarkets. Naturally, they cost more than the olive oils that failed the test?all of which you can buy for less than $10.
Tomorrow, I will provide strategies for buying the best extra virgin olive oil.
Join date: Dec 2008
Location: Ontario, CAN
Here's the follow up article. Ways to detect if your EVOO is faulty:
1) Develop a taste for high quality, authentic extra virgin olive oil.
The IOC has certified tasting panels for olive oil, and for the oil to get the ?extra virgin? mark, it has to have ?appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws, including ?musty? and ?fusty??the two defective flavors that most commonly appeared in the UC Davis study. Other taste flaws are ?cucumber? and ?grubby.?
Experienced and properly trained tasters are known for their ability to weed out the frauds and correctly identify if the olive oil is adulterated with other oils, if it is extra virgin, and if it is a high quality extra virgin that is worth a high price tag. If you?re committed to developing a cultured taste for olive oil, take a class on how to taste or perform tastings at home.
2) Perform a simple home refrigerator test to determine if it?s adulterated.
Olive oil goes rancid, typically within a year of being made, depending on the production and storage methods. If it?s rancid it means the oil has gone through an oxidation process and contains those free radicals you want to avoid. To slow the process of rancidity, it?s common to refrigerate olive oil, and genuine olive oil will become viscous and nearly solid due to its chemical content.
Blended olive oils and non-olive oils posing as olive oil will not solidify when cold?you may have noticed that your olive oil in the fridge is solid, but your canola or soybean oil is not. This is a simple, if imperfect test for purity, but it does not indicate poor quality or rancid oil.
A second test is to see if your olive will burn in an oil lamp. In fact, an inferior grade of olive called lampante, or ?lamp oil? is made from olives that have spoiled and fallen from trees. It is not fit for human consumption and can?t be legally sold as food. Still, it has been found in oil with the ?extra virgin? label. So, testing your olive oil by trying to burn it will tell you if it is truly olive oil and has no other oils added in, but it? won?t give any indicator of the quality or freshness.
3) Buy brands that go through a certifying or testing process that you trust.
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) provides an ?extra virgin? certification that was developed in response to the media and consumer outcry about adulterated and poor quality olive oil. The COOC only offers the certification to oils that are made from olives grown in California. The organization performs a chemical analysis of acidity level and a sensory test for taste. It has stricter standards than those used by the USDA and IOC. For example, all of the California-grown brands that passed the test as being extra virgin in the UC Davis study are certified by the COOC. Check out the list and learn more about the issue here.
Take note that the Kirkland Organic brand that is imported from Spain and Italy performed very well in the UC Davis study, making it another option. It may surprise you to learn that Kirkland is the house brand of Costco, which makes it the most economical option of the oils that passed the UC Davis tests.
4) Avoid expensive brands that sit on the shelf?more chance of rancidity.
If the bottle of exotic, pricey extra virgin olive oil is dust covered and appears to have been sitting on the grocery shelf for months, if not years, don?t buy it. Expensive brands may go bad before you even get them home because they?re old?and most olive oil doesn?t have an expiration date making it impossible to identify the oil?s age.
If the oil is light in color, it may be rancid or it may be adulterated with lighter colored oils. Look for darker colored oils. Remember, you want to avoid good quality extra virgin olive oil that has gone bad because it will have lost all of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Plus, it should taste rancid, and if you cook with old, spoiled oil, it will ruin your meal!
5) For Imported, Opt for Spanish, Not Greek or Italian.
This is not a fool proof strategy, but reports suggest Spanish olive oil is less likely to be adulterated or of poor quality because there is much less evidence of fraud in the Spanish olive oil business. In comparison, there is a long history of shady dealing in the olive industry in Italy and Greece such that the European Union established an olive oil task force to go after olive oil schemers. The fake extra virgin olive oil business has been compared to cocaine trafficking in terms of the profits it yields, and a number of producers have actually gone to jail for olive oil scams.
According to another report from the UC Davis Olive Center, olive oil in Spain is an important part of the culture?of course, the same can be said for Italy, where criminals have been the leading producers of olive oil?but universities across the country play a large role in helping to promote authentic production methods. Universities in AndalucĂa and Catalonia are involved with government funded research stations that breed, grow, and process the Spanish olive crop. Still, there have been media reports of adulterated Spanish olive oil, making caution and the other tips listed above essential.
6) Understand The Labels: Virgin, Olive Oil, Light, Filtered
None of these labels will help you determine if your olive oil with an ?extra virgin? label really is ?extra? but you will know what not to even consider buying.
Virgin olive oil is made from olives that are slightly riper than those used for extra virgin oil and has a fee acidity of less than 2 percent whereas extra virgin can have a free acidity of no more than 0.8 percent. Virgin should have a decent taste, but is considered a slightly defective oil. If the market wasn?t awash with fraudulent olive oils, this label might be useful, but it seems that producers have opted for labeling all the olive oil they sell ?extra virgin? regardless of the ripeness of the olives used or the oils acidity level.
Refined olive oil should be pure olive oil but it will be tasteless and have a higher acidity level around 3 percent. It is usually refined with charcoal or another chemical.
Pure olive oil just means that it shouldn?t be adulterated with other nut or seed oils. It may be virgin or refined or a blend of these.
Light olive oil as been heavily refined and will have a pale color with minimal flavor. It is not extra virgin and it does not have less calories or fat. It is often used in baking. The refining process will produce oxidized fats and eliminate the antioxidants.
Join date: Feb 2009
Location: California, USA
Fuck imports. My suggestion is to Google an olive ranch in California that makes their own stuff. They grow some of the best in the world (just like grapes).
I've tried this stuff so I know it's good. It's fresh and cold pressed, stored in dark green glass to preserve the integrity: http://www.olivepit.com/...-Oils-P527.aspx
It's got a SUPER intense fruity (green olivey) flavor. It kind of burns your throat almost if you take it straight, but at least you know it's real stuff.
Sprouts Market also carries/markets their own brand (of california grown), which is like $6.99 for about .5L/.75L and it is also definitely the good stuff, and not nearly as intense, and at a better value.
I used to go with a few of EVOO and regular type olive oils which costco sells (kirkland signature), although they are generally very mild and a little suspect in my opinion.
Join date: Dec 2010
Location: Wisconsin, USA
I am very happy with costco foods. They seem to be of a very high quality. Much better than Sams club. And their prices are hard to beat.
Fun Fact: Kirkland Signature Vodka is basically Grey Goose and is quite a bit cheaper than Grey Goose... Same recipe and same distillery in France.
That is exactly what i was going to type when i read your first couple lines. But it turns out you already know. I do like the fact that they buy quality product and do not care that they slap their own label on it.
Join date: Feb 2009
Location: California, USA
$20 for 12.7oz of EVOO is insane.
I've heard good things from mountainroseherbs.com who sell spanish EVOO for $10.5/L before shipping
Yeah it's pricey, but the main point of my post was to indicate that california stuff was legit. The stuff from Sprouts that I talked about is $6.99 for the same size, and nearly as good, but I take it they don't have that store up there. But... I'm sure there is a california brand you can find near you.
Join date: Apr 2006
Location: California, USA
Let Don Corleone teach you how to check your EVOO...
It should be greenish color, more green than yellow. It should also be a bit thick, if it's not viscous, it's shit. The taste should be a tiny bit gritty and peppery. I go with Trader Joe's Sicilian Olive Oil. It's actually from Sicily, which is great because they are more isolated and there is less chance of government/business intervention and fuckery.
Kinda sad to see shit like this, no self-respecting Italian would promote this shit.