Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Buyer Beware

From the University of California Food Blog, a warning about fraud in the olive oil business:

“Researchers at UC Davis and in Australia discovered that 69 percent of the imported oils sampled, compared to just 10 percent of the California-produced oils sampled, failed to meet internationally accepted standards for extra virgin olive oil.

The imported oils tested were purchased from supermarkets and “big box” stores in three California regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County. The California brands, however, were found only in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area.

Defects in those oils that failed to pass muster included oxidation from excessive temperature, light or aging and addition of cheaper refined olive oils.  Other flaws may have been linked to improper processing or storage and use of damaged or overripe olives.

Anecdotal reports of low-quality olive oils lurking behind extra-virgin labels have been floating about for some time but this is the first “empirical proof” to support those suspicions, according to Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center.”

 Read the full report on the website of the UC Davis Olive Center.

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10 Comments

  1. thats why I stick to the local produced oils over here in Maine. We have Mustard, Canola and Sunflower available year round… there has to be some coming from the CA region too… Right?

  2. For those in the SF Bay Area, if you have access to trees you can take your olives to The Oil Press in Sonoma on their community days and they’ll press it for you for a decent price. That way you know where your olives have come from and the quality of the oil

  3. Most humans don’t need olive oil… It’s better tu use butter, lard or beef tallow which contain aprox 40% of monounsaturated fats (the same as in oliv oil). If you eat grassfed animal fats you also have much better omega3 to omega6 fatty acids balance than if you eat olive oil.

  4. I’m with Joe… I knew that UCD was a big Ag school, but an olive center? Cool!

    And good to know about the Olive Press in Sonoma. Rachel, you should include a link (but yeah, I’m aware of googling. :-)

  5. I don’t buy olive oil unless I can get stuff from CA, at this point. It skeeves me that I can get an off-brand at FoodsCo or Grocery Outlet which is sourced from no less than four different countries, for example. The carbon footprint is insane before ya even get to adulteration issues. Tunisia, Spain, Greece and Turkey, all in one bottle?

    There was a problem awhile ago with pomace olive oil (solvent-extracted from skins and pits usually, under heat and pressure) being tarted up with chlorophyll to make it green and whole-some looking, and then selling that as extra virgin. That was back when I learning to make soap and buying a fair bit of pomace.

    I got an arbequina olive a few weeks ago, and hope to get it a buddy of a different variety, before summer’s end. If I can raise olives and press ‘em for oil, woohoo.

  6. I would like to know if they measured the hydroxytyrosols in the samples they tested.  Given the health benefits of hydroxytyrosols I would to know why EVOO bottle labels don’t list them as ingredients.  The hydroxytyrosols in extra virgin olive oil (Spain and Italy) appear to be an inhibitor of the enzymes that produce pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, just as aspirin does.  This begins to explain the Crete paradox. This population consumes more than 40 percent of their calories as fat (primarily extra-virgin olive oil), but has the lowest rate of heart disease in the Mediterranean region. They are basically taking liquid aspirin (at least according to http://www.buy-extra-virgin-olive-oil.com ).
    Here’s the list of UC Davis results
    Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two out of three samples failed.
    Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
    Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
    Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
    Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil: One of three samples failed.
    Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
    Newman’s Own Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
    Mezzetta Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
    Mazola Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
    Rachael Ray Extra Tasty Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
    Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: All samples passed.
    Great Value 100 percent Extra Virgin Olive Oil: One of three samples failed.
    Safeway Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
    365 Everyday Value 100 percent Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.

    I don’t eat any butter. My uncle was a butter taster for Land O Lakes. He died of a heart attack. High LDL levels. My great grandfather was a butter maker. He died of a heart attack too. Instead of butter I use extra virgin olive oil. It is my butter substitute. Why? It is a powerful anti-inflammatory. The hydroxytyrosols in extra virgin olive oil (Spain and Italy) appear to be an inhibitor of the enzymes that produce pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, just as aspirin does. This begins to explain the Crete paradox. This population consumes more than 40 percent of their calories as fat (primarily extra-virgin olive oil), but has the lowest rate of heart disease in the Mediterranean region. They are basically taking liquid aspirin (at least according to http://www.buy-extra-virgin-olive-oil.com ).
    Tom Seidler
    Palmdale, CA

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