Monday, April 02, 2012

Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Probably Not "Extra Virgin"

According to researchers at University of California, Davis (UCDavis), much imported "extra virgin" olive oil would be more accurately labeled "virgin" olive oil.1
"69% of imported olive oil samples and 10% of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin olive oil failed to meet the IOC/USDA sensory (organoleptic) standards for extra virgin olive oil.
Our chemical testing indicated that the samples failed extra virgin standards for reasons that include one or more of the following:
  • Oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging
  • Adulteration with cheaper refined olive oil
  • Poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing flaws, and/or improper oil storage"
The researchers at UCDavis Olive Center who conducted this analysis are probably happy to see California olive oils fare so well in comparison to imported oils. Indeed, makers of 2 domestic brands, Corto Olive and California Olive Ranch, not only helped fund the analysis but achieved high scores for their oils. At least the possible bias here is transparent.

Still, there's some revealing compare/contrast data among the imported brands they (and blinded researchers in Australia) tested:

Some of these oils run over $20 for a 16 ounce bottle. These aren't rank-and-file olive oils. Unfortunately, spending less can result in a bottle of olive oil that's really hazelnut or canola oil with, if the buyer is lucky, a splash of olive, as I've read. Corruption in the global olive oil trade is rampant.

Related post: Adulteration And Corruption In The Olive Oil Trade
1Report: Tests Indicate That Imported “Extra Virgin” Olive Oil Often Fails International And USDA Standards, University of California, Davis, 2010.
The photo is mine, of what I thought was an "extra virgin" olive oil, but what UCDavis says is, in many respects, just "virgin." It's Colavita.


Claudia said...

This doesn't surprise me. How much EVOO can the world produce? If its less than what is sold you have your answer.

Laurie Endicott Thomas said...

It's junk food, even if it is "extra virgin."

Bix said...

It may be a junk food to you, Laurie, but to many it is an elixir.

Angela and Melinda said...

Olive oil is strongly anti-inflammatory, acc. to Nutrition Data. That's a good thing. And, btw, I happen to work with a LOT of old virgins, who are very nice.

Laurie Endicott Thomas said...

An elixir? Oh, please. My point is that it's bad for your health, so who cares if it isn't as "virgin" as people think? There's a lot of hype claiming that the value of the Mediterranean diet results from eating olive oil, when it actually results from eating more vegetables. The Mediterranean diet is far from being the optimal diet for human health.

Bix said...

Sure, Laurie. You may have heard about Mariam Amash? She accredited her long life, in part, to a glass of olive oil daily:

Mariam Amash, a woman living in an Israeli village, recently astounded officials when she filed for a new identity card, declaring an age of 120 years old. She says she was born in 1888, when the Turks still ran the holy land. Her secret to long life? Walk regularly and drink a glass of olive oil every day.

Studies have found that the monounsaturated oils in olive oil not only help reduce blood cholesterol, it also "cause less production of the bile acids in the digestive tract that promote colon cancer development." Additionally, it is less likely to generate free radicals in the body than other fats, it strengthens the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fats and blocks the activation carcinogens. With all the olive oil she's consumed over the years, it's no wonder she's lived such a long life.


Some people do revere olive oil. According to Mueller, the Greeks and Romans sure did:

"The Greeks and the Romans used olive oil as food, soap, lotion, fuel for lamps and furnaces, a base for perfumes, and a cure for heart ailments, stomach aches, hair loss, and excessive perspiration. They also considered it a sacred substance; cult statues, like the effigy of Zeus at Olympia, were rubbed regularly with oil. People who bathed or exercised in Greek gymnasiums anointed their bodies as well, using oils that were scented with pressed flowers and roots."

Bix said...

This was interesting ... that the rise of bronze statues may have been linked to the appreciation of an oiled bronzed body:

Some scholars link the central place of olive oil in Greek sports, which were performed in the nude, with the rise of bronze statuary in the sixth century B.C. “A tanned athlete, shining in the summer sun, covered with oil, would really resemble a statue of the gods.”

Angela and Melinda said...

Laurie, there's no need to be so snippy and cranky. Bix was speaking metaphorically. Everyone knows that olive oil is *not* a "clear, sweet-flavored liquid used for medicinal purposes."

Ronald said...

Yes snippy indeed.

Angela and Melinda said...

Love that connection of olive oil and fine arts!

Claudia said...

One man's junk food is another man's dark chocolate! Ha! I wouldn't worry about a little olive oil Laurie. Not if the rest of your diet looks good.

Bryan - oz4caster said...

We use Braggs extra virgin olive oil, but I don't see it on the list. I think it's an American brand so hopefully it really is what it says.

Anonymous said...

I called Bragg and had a lengthy discussion with the back-office, just last week (Jan2014).

Explaining my concern over trusting suppliers and getting assurance of quality, purity, etc... I was told that they have a person 100% dedicated to EVOO, with no other duties, besides EVOO product. This person makes regular trips to Greece and knows the people in the process from the olive trees to the glass bottles, and is personally assuring Bragg quality is maintained.
Since I can't make the trips to Greece myself, I am glad that Bragg does is for me!
At this point, I'm willing to trust Bragg, since they have been such a great vendor for me in my years of health-oriented food efforts.