Unpure Virginity: Olive Oil Scandal

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May 2, 2015

Your Extra-Virgin might just be dirty. Bet you, like many, got the idea that this label meant it was super pure. That’s what it’s supposed to mean to, and you may think you’re getting better olive oil if the label says it’s imported. Guess what? EVOO should be spelled ‘evil’ because:

Olive Oil Is A Corrupt Industry

There’s big money in olive oil, and they’re cashing in while we’ve been taken for a king’s ransom. Even cheap stuff far surpasses the price of gasoline per ounce. Do the math. It’s green gold.

Money you’ve spent on the healthy benefits of olive oil may have been hijacked, because about 50% of the olive oil sold in the US is fake. Most of what’s in the bottle isn’t olive oil at all, and some of it contains chemicals and synthetic flavors. So much for avoiding bad oils on your limited grocery budget. It’s not just the cheap stuff either, there are some fine brands of olive oil with uppity price tags that are as guilty of lying about their virginity as the bargain labels. That last group includes the top 5 brands nationwide.

Fake food can come from anywhere in today’s commercial food supply. If you needed one more reason to start purchasing only locally-grown foods – here it is. First it was ‘natural’ honey from China that contained no pollen, and now it’s ‘healthy’ oil that contains little to no olives with some extras. You know what that means? You’ve got cause for concern. Most of these impostors contain corn, sunflower seed, hazelnut, and grape seed oils, but they’ve also found lampante in some of them. Lampante is made from the spoiled olives harvested after they fall out of the trees. It’s not food grade oil. It’s lamp oil… and yes, you might be eating it! You might also have drizzled toxic rapeseed over your salads a couple years ago, that was the oil scandal of 2012.

Olive Oil Scandal of 2015

Don’t fall for the fancy label on the front of the bottle stating ‘Imported from Italy’. Read the back too – all the fine print. Some of the oil in there might have come from Italy, but these oil brands create blends from different countries. Such is the case with Bertolli and Carapelli brands of extra-virgin olive oil, products of Deoleo USA, Inc., who has a class action lawsuit against them in California over misleading labeling, poor quality, and false advertising. Company counsel suggested to the judge that it clearly stated on the back label that the product could be a blend of oils from more than one origin. Incidentally, Deoleo netted over $190 million from the sales of these 2 fraudulent brands in 2013 alone.

Quality Standards Totally Ignored

The University of California recently discovered an alarming amount of of brands failed the established International Olive Council and Department of Agriculture guidelines quality and purity standards for extra-virgin olive oil. The results of their 2010 investigation were that 73% of all imported brands, and 10% of the California brands were defective in some way or another. Only 39% of the more than 180 samples tested were good.

Exactly what does ‘defective’ mean?

Our testing indicated that the samples failed extra virgin olive oil standards for reasons that include one or more of the
following: (a) oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging; (b) adulteration with cheaper
refined olive oil; and (c) poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing flaws, and/or improper
oil storage. — Olive Center, UC Davis Report

Some of the samples were found to be damaged due to improper packaging (clear bottles) allowing UVA rays to degrade the oil. The “oil made from damaged and overripe grapes” translates to lampante grade products. In addition to the statement above they found samples that were partially hydrolyzed, which causes dangerous free fats to form.

And this was just the retail brands of olive oil they tested. According the the US International Trade Committee, retail purchases represents only about 40% of total US consumption, and 97% of the olive oil used in America’s food is imported. Along with other morsels of information in this agency’s 2013 report, we find this tidbit:

U.S. retail consumers are generally unfamiliar with the range of olive oil grades, although they tend to favor extra virgin olive oil. U.S. consumers generally prefer milder olive oils to strong, pungent, bitter, and flavorful ones. However, many consumers remain unfamiliar with the product and do not know what product attributes distinguish one quality level from the next. As a result, it is difficult for many U.S. consumers to judge what is good value for their money when making their olive oil purchases. Nonetheless, retail purchases are concentrated in the extra virgin category. There is also a smaller, but growing, consumer market segment for olive oil in the United States made up of consumers concerned with natural, organic, and gourmet foods. Consumer interest in food quality and sourcing has increased in recent years, as has interest in specialty or niche food products. Consumers in this segment are willing to pay premiums for higher-quality olive oil. — Page 22

Wonder where they got these facts from. Were you invited to the taste test? Guess the panel lost my address. Is it just me or does this tell olive importers that people in the US are ignorant? Aah, but the frosted this with the suggestion that even so, we’re willing to pay more when the label claims it’s Extra-Virgin.

Brands That Didn’t Fail

  • California Olive Ranch
  • Corto Olive
  • Kirkland Organic
  • Lucero Ascolano
  • McEvoy Ranch Organic
  • Pompeian
Callie

Callie

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.
Callie

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