L.A.'s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, and How to Get the Real Thing

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Buy extra virgin olive oil off a supermarket shelf, and chances are that it’s extra virgin in name only.

“Unfortunately, in the United States, many of the companies that have sold olive oil have done so without having to comply with any standards for many, many years,” says Paul Vossen, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor and expert in olive oil processing and analysis.

They’re not breaking the law – because there isn’t any. And profits are tempting. “Everyone wants to sell their oil as extra virgin, because it gets the highest price,” Vossen says. Oil activists are working to change this, but nothing has happened yet.

One way to get genuine extra virgin olive oil is to check out the winners of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition. Northern hemisphere oils, including those from California and Mexico, were judged in March at the Sheraton Fairplex in Pomona. Southern hemisphere oils, which are in production now, will be judged in July. All the winners will be featured at the Los Angeles County Fair Aug. 29-Sept. 8.

Vossen was one of 12 international specialists who tasted 485 domestic and international oils in March, divided into delicate, medium and robust categories. They also evaluated 73 flavored oils. (Chocolate-infused olive oil, anybody?)

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