How Virgin is our Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Once someone tries a real extra virgin olive oil– an adult or a child, anybody with taste buds –they’ll never go back to the fake kind.
It’s distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you’ve ever eaten.”

~ Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity

The big business of Olive Oil is bad for consumers. That expensive bottle you bought at the store may just be stale, rancid, and filled with cheap oil. In the U.S. 69% of imported extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) tested were fake, adulterated, stale, or subpar and failed to meet international and USDA standards. (UC Davis Olive Center July 2010)

Nearly three-quarters of the samples of top-selling imported olive oil brands failed international extra virgin standards; 73% of the top five selling brands failed standards for EVOO, failing two International Olive Council accredited taste panels. The oils being determined rancid and “fustiness” a fermentation defect. (UC Davis Olive Center April 13, 2011)

Olive oil does not improve with age. Freshness accounts for 80% of the oils flavor. ” It’s at its healthiest and most flavorful the day it is pressed. Fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oil, squeezed from olives at exactly the right moment at harvest time, is insanely bright-tasting and flavorful. You can taste the difference immediately.” said Dr. Joe Frazer MD of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Olive oil in its purest form, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has excellent health qualities. Olive oil is known to help reduce heart disease. Olive oil contains mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as the bad cholesterol. It also appears to keep the inner lining of the arteries clear and reduce inflammation that can lead to heart damage.

The health benefits are also best when fresh. the Oil should be used within 3 months of being pressed and this decreases to about forty percent after six months of storage. the oil should be in a dark bottle to help retain freshness, but remember that a dark bottle can hide a cheap brown oil inside.

But what you get in the United States is not what you think. Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin when you see this on the label, we are led to believe the oil is fresh pressed and of quality, but the label does not guarantee these things.

Very little fresh pressed olive oil makes it to the United States. The olive oils that stock our local supermarket is of very low standard. By the time it arrives it is already old. Very few bottles will label the harvest or pressed date and the best used by date is a farce since the oil will be bad well before that day comes. The most popular olive oils sold in our markets are either old, mixed with other oils such as soy oil, canola, sunflower seed, or hazelnut, mislabel the country of origin, do not have a pressed date, are stale and do not compare to the true olive oils found in Italy, Greece, Spain, or even Australia and New Zealand. A good quality olive oil label will specify the place where the olives were grown, the name of the grower, or the harvest date and possibly the olive cultivar. The Best By Date (BBD) should be within six months of the press date. Many labels the BBD was much too distant: even the good oils will go bad long before they reach these dates.

Most olive oils are made in Spain where the International Olive Council is located. Most people think the best olive oil comes from Italy, manufactures go to great lengths to indulge us. Some will mix their oil with low grade Italian oil; others will ship their oil to Italy for bottling. The FDA realized this and in 2009 required all oil sold in the states to indicate country of origin. You can find it by looking at the back label; it is often in microscopic print. Unfortunately, the oils only have to be listed in order of importance, not percentage of the mix. (Huffington post)

Tom Mueller, New Yorker contributor and author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, reports how the retail markets add lower-priced, lower-grade oils and artificial coloring to extra-virgin olive oil, before passing this along the supply chain. His research shows that 50-70 percent of the olive oil sold in the United States is, in some ways, adulterated.

For example, independent tests at the University of California, Davis, have discovered that 69% of all store-bought extra virgin olive oils tested are fake.
The New York Times reports that “50 percent of the olive oil sold in America is, to some degree, fraudulent.” This includes many well-known and expensive brands.
“American grocery stores are awash in cheap, fake ‘extra virgins,'” says The Wall Street Journal
CBS News adds: “Consumers who think they’re buying one of the healthiest foods on the planet often get something very different.”

Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first cold pressing of olives and has no more than an .8% acidity. For a good quality olive oil, always look for extra virgin. The best oil has less than .3% acidity. All good olive oil (EVOO) is first harvest cold pressed. If it is not cold pressed heat is used to extract the oil, increasing the acidity which then needs to be lowered by the use of chemicals. That kind of oil isn’t used by the Italians for human consumption. To put cold press on the label is redundant, it never appears on labels of oil sold in Italy. “True extra virgin olive oil is made with olives that were picked just at the ideal degree of ripeness and then immediately taken to the mill for processing. It is a labor intensive product that is expensive to produce. Please don’t compromise, good olive oil is critical to good cooking.”

Once someone tries a real extra virgin olive oil– an adult or a child, anybody with taste buds –they’ll never go back to the fake kind.
It’s distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you’ve ever eaten.”

~ Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity (New York) by Lisa Judd

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