For those who watched 60 Minutes special on how the Mafia is corrupting the Italian olive oil industry, it is not surprising that you begin to question the integrity of ALL olive oil sold in the United States.
Consumers are right to question the integrity of the olive oil they purchase, although I would suggest that the Mafia is responsible for only a small percentage of adulterated and improperly labelled “extra virgin olive oil” or EVOO. Sadly, big conglomerates on both sides of the Atlantic are responsible for misleading the public on the authenticity of the contents on bottled olive oil. In fact, some estimates suggest that 60% to 70% of olive oil is FAKE.
Choose the “Right” Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Found below are some general observations that I have drawn from Gourmet Living’s Frequently Asked Questions about Olive Oil. Other than running sophisticated chemical tests or hiring a professional “taster,” there is no easy way to determine whether your extra virgin olive oil is truly “virgin” or if it has been “cut” or adulterated with cheaper varieties of olive or vegetable oil.
“Having sampled hundreds of olive oils from around the world, but mainly European, I don’t think there is any way to determine the “best” extra virgin olive oil. Aside from personal taste, there are many factors that go into establishing the quality of various olive oils:
- Differences in the harvested crop each season;
- Region and soil content where the olives are grown;
- Age of the bottled olive oil;
- Bottling process (is nitrogen used to prevent the oil from oxidizing?)
- Is the olive oil a blend of different varieties?”
Many people believe that bottles of olive oil marked “blended” EVOO are prime suspects for adulteration. While this may be true for some generic or supermarket brands, many reliable producers blend extra virgin olive oils to insure a consistent taste, extend the shelf life and balance harvesting yields. In fact, Gourmet Living will soon be introducing a Tuscan extra virgin olive oil that consists of a blend of several Tuscan olive oils.
A California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Well over 90% of olive oil production comes from just three countries: Spain, Italy and Greece. For the most part, olive oil from these countries is shipped in containers and then bottled in the United States. I would argue that blending inferior olive or vegetable oils with extra virgin olive oils takes place when the oil is bottled rather than at the source of production.
For those concerned that imported olive oils may be fraudulent, might we recommend Gourmet Living’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil from California made from the Picual olive at our Online Store of buy this wonderful CA EVOO on Amazon.