How To Tell If Olive Oil Is Real
Just when you think you have it all figured out with your shopping list, more research gets published making it all the more confusing. However, it is important to know what you are buying and have trust in the brands that you do buy.
Olive oil is expensive regardless, so it is important if you are spending the money that you are getting the product that you think you are getting.
A 2011 report (1), tested Extra Virgin Olive Oils sold in California to see the if the labeling matched the qualities of what was in the bottle.
One significant findings from their report:
" Of the ﬁve top-selling imported “extra virgin” olive oil brands in the United States, 73 percent of the samples failed the IOC sensory standards for extra virgin olive oils analyzed by two IOC-accredited sensory panels. The failure rate ranged from a high of 94 percent to a low of 56 percent depending on the brand and the panel. None of the Australian and California samples failed both sensory panels, while 11 percent of the top-selling premium Italian brand samples failed the two panels. Sensory defects are indicators that these samples are oxidized, of poor quality, and/or adulterated with cheaper reﬁned oils."
Another interesting finding from their 2010 report is:
" In July 2010 the UC Davis Olive Center issued a report showing that 69 percent of imported olive oils labeled as “extra virgin” failed the IOC sensory standard - in other words, these oils were defective and failed to meet the international standard for extra virgin olive oil."
The main reasons for brands failing the tests:
"(a) oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging;
(b) adulteration with cheaper reﬁned olive oil; and
(c) poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing ﬂaws, and/or improper oil storage."
So does this mean that you should only buy olive oils from California or Australia, and not Italy or Spain? That is not entirely the answer, but it does mean that you should not choose oil simply based on the country of origin, since there are many more factors to consider, and we cannot pretend that there are not dishonest practices happening and false labelling, which is highly unfortunate, but certainly true.
Trust me, I wish it were simple too. So to help simplify and help you to be a smart olive oil shopper, here are some tips. Once you find a brand you trust, share it here in the comments below, so we can start a list of great brands of olive oils.
Grandmother's Olive Oil Shopping Tips
1. Cold pressed. This means that no heat was applied during processing of the olive to make oil.
2. Always dark glass bottles. This will help to ensure that the oil does not go rancid from light and heat exposure. At all costs avoid plastic containers, since the chemicals in plastics can seep into the oils over time.
3. Expect to pay. The good qualities oils are not cheap. It takes time and money to make a good quality oil. If the oil is cheap on the shelf, then it may be a red flag that it is not entirely being honest about what is in the package.
4. Look for a harvest date that is in the past year. A high quality producer who cares about their product will usually put this information on their bottle.
5. Look to see what region (not just the country). A high quality producer who cares about their product will usually put this information on their bottle.
6.Look to see if the type of olive plants (cultivar) is listed. A high quality producer who cares about their product will usually put this information on their bottle.
Let's start a list in the comments below of brands that meat these criteria. Be sure to let everyone know what country you are from, since the brands will vary.