The Olive Oil business is a scandalous one, full of thieves, oil adulterators and corporate scoundrels. OK, this might be a bit dramatic but there’s a serious problem with fake olive oil in the United States. The UC Davis Olive Center and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory did a study of California olive oils on supermarket shelves to see how many of them would pass the extra virgin test. The UC Davis research team collected fourteen imported brands and five California brands of extra virgin olive oils from three different regions of California. They went back to the lab and ran multiple tests to see if what was on the label was actually true.
Shockingly a total of 69% of the imported and 10% of the California olive oil samples labeled extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil. Many sensory defects were found. These defects are indicators that the samples were oxidized, of poor quality, and/or adulterated with cheaper refined oils. You read correctly, olive oils are being adulterated with cheaper refined oils. Since olive oil is extremely low on the USDA’s list of foods to monitor, many suppliers will add cheaper refined oils to a little extra virgin olive oil to make more profit while making the consumer think they are purchasing high quality, healthy olive oil. Some suppliers will add canola, avocado, macadamia nut oil or chemically refined olive oil to the mix.
Now not all olive oil suppliers are Al Pacino in Scarface, cutting and diluting their product for profit. Many olive oils start off as extra virgin when bottled, but lose their quality due to age, poor storage conditions or being bottled in clear glass or plastic bottles. Olive Oil that’s stored in a clear glass or plastic bottles has a higher chance of going rancid faster. You should always purchase olive oil in a dark glass bottle and stay away from any extra virgin olive oil bottled in a clear glass or plastic. Chances are it’s no longer extra virgin when you buy it. When you store olive oil in clear glass you allow the light to attack the oil; light is one of the four enemies of olive oil. The other enemies are heat, air and time.
Buying and Storing Your Olive Oil
With all of that fake, old, rancid or chemically refined oil posing as EVOO out there, it can be a bit tough buying your favorite olive oil. Here are a few tips on how to buy real extra virgin olive oil.
1. Always buy olive oil in a dark glass bottle, never in a clear glass or plastic container. Many companies say they sell olive oil in clear containers because consumers like to see the oil they are buying. That might be true but it is also cheaper to package olive oil in clear plastic or glass. Bottom line, clear glass or plastic packaging over time will break down and kill the good elements of your EVOO.
2. Never buy olive oil that is bottled in plastic or metal. I know that olive oil has been sold in those beautiful tin cans for decades but recent studies show that over time the metal leeches into the oil contaminating it. The same goes for plastic. Olive oil in plastic is transported all over the world and it’s not shipped in temperature controlled containers. The heat forces the plastic to also leech the chemicals that make up the plastic into the olive oil. There is no leeching in glass containers and it also helps protect the oil from heat a bit better.
3. Look for a harvest date on the bottle or at the store you are purchasing from. The harvest date is when the olive was harvested. Always look for the current year’s oil if possible. EVOO does have a shelf life of 18-24 months but fresher is always better.
When buying olive oil I would search out olive oil companies who bottle their oils fresh. This way you know that the bottle you are buying wasn’t bottled eight months ago and sat in a hot warehouse somewhere. Now that you have purchased your EVOO how do you take care of it. We suggest that you keep your bottle in a cool, dark place, like your cupboard. Most people just put their olive oil bottle near or right on the stove with an open air spout. Heat and air destroys olive oil over time and makes it rancid faster.
Now that you know what to look for you can enjoy good, healthy extra virgin olive oil.
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