Olive Oil Blues


Olive Oil Blues

Most people who practice healthy eating habits generally know about the health benefits of olive oil.  According to many researchers, among other such benefits, olive oil protects your heart against heart disease (and lowers cholesterol), is an anti-inflammatory and also controls insulin levels. See http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/26/health/five-things-olive-oil/index.html  According to news reports, the United States is the third largest consumer of imported olive oil.

The quality of olive oil is essential to receiving these health benefits and enjoying its taste.  The International Olive Council, based in Madrid, Spain, is the recognized world organization that sets quality standards for olive oil. See http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/  The Council’s standards involve certain taste and smell tests and chemical analysis to label the quality of olive oil such as  “virgin” and “extra virgin”. For example, extra virgin is the highest grade and is defined as coming from olives milled within 24 hours of harvest. Extra virgin must be free from defects and free from fatty acids and it must be obtained by physically milling or pressing the fruit–not by heating it. It cannot contain any additives.

For the past several years, evidence indicates that rampant fraud is occurring in the labeling of imported olive oil even in major brands. In 2011, the University of California at Davis study concluded that 73 percent of certain best-selling imported brands failed to meet the standards for their label designation. See http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/files/report%20041211%20final%20reduced.pdf   A one-year study, released last month, by the United States International Trade Commission concluded that a wide range of imported olive oil are actually “adulterated and mislabeled products.” See http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/13/202115/claims-of-olive-oil-quality-ripe.html  In a follow up to its 2011 study, also released last month, the University of California at Davis, argues that the test protocols for olive oil must be significantly raised to protect against fraud on olive oil consumers. See http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10336

Buyer beware? Sadly yes.  However, there is help. Tom Mueller, author of the book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, has launched an olive oil revolution.  His website “Truth In Olive Oil” found at http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/

is a very easy and informative website for consumers. From a buyer’s guide, to tips on handling and storing olive oil and brand and supermarket olive oil reviews, there is very useful information for consumers who want the benefits of quality and honestly labeled olive oil.  Here’s hoping that Tom’s movement spreads far and wide.


Kirk Schroder / Food Advocate / foodadvocate@ellwoodthompsons.com