In America, more than $700 million a year is spent on olive oil. Sought after because of its light taste, versatility, and good balance of mono and poly saturated fats, Olive oil for years has been used in everything from cooking to cosmetic purposes.
Of the ﬁve top-selling imported “extra virgin” olive oil brands in the United States, 73 percent of the samples failed the IOC (International Olive Council) sensory standards for extra virgin olive oils analyzed by two IOC-accredited sensory panels. This was back in 2010, and in the following years, the stir would cause even Congress to intervene, urging the FDA to do more rigorous testing.
The five brands tested: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Star, Pompeian, 73 percent of the samples failed the IOC sensory standards. The testing methods used examine the exact quantities of:
free fatty acids (FFA) – An elevated level of free fatty acid indicates hydrolyzed, oxidized and/or poor-quality oil.
peroxide value (PV) – Peroxides are primary oxidation products that are formed when oils are exposed to oxygen, producing undesirable flavors and odors.
ultraviolet absorption (UV) – An elevated level of UV absorbance indicates oxidized and/or poor quality oil.
fatty acid profile (FAP) – Analysis of the fatty acid profile provides information on the authenticity of the olive oil; an indicator for adulteration with refined oils.
and of course, taste.
The findings of these tests done by the IOC and the UC Davis Olive oil Center indicate that most of these oils are not only composed of a mix of canola-olive-vegetable oils. A wide variety of oils (of the 169 tested) were improperly packaged, further damaging the integrity and structure of what oil is contained in general.
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
- The oil must come from fresh olives that were milled within 24 hours of their harvest.
- Next, it must be extracted by mechanical means, not from heat or chemicals. generally speaking, hand-picked and processed oils are generally a good sign.
- They must not be treated chemically in any way, this includes the additives introduced. .
- Extra virgin oil is, in fact, fresh olive juice.
- Olives contain natural antioxidants that protect the plant during its lifetime. When the olive tree is very old it contains more of these antioxidants. This is one of the reasons that olive trees are often hundreds of years old and create antioxidant rich products.
With this being said, there are things to look for when purchasing your next bottle.
In the Store:
- Do not buy light olive oil or a blend; it isn’t virgin quality. The Virgin denotes mechanically-pressed without any chemicals involved. It is generally thinner than non-virgin oils.
- When extra virgin olive oil costs less than $10 a litre it may not be real. Olives are on the decline, theoretically we can expect prices to increase every year. According to the Texas Olive Council, it takes roughly 44 Olives to make just 1 Table-spoon of Olive Oil.
- Only but oils in dark bottles, as this protects the oil from oxidation and further degradation.
- Look for a seal from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC)
- Look for a harvesting date on the label. Most fake oils do not provide this.
- Olive oil can get old and rancid. A simple test for a “good” olive oil is to taste a little on a spoon. Not rancid, real olive oil will have a fruity taste in the front of your mouth and a peppery taste in the back of your mouth.
- The Fridge Test – Exrta-Virgin olive oil is comprised of mostly monounsaturated fats which solidify when cold. Some may solidify completely if from an old tree.
- The Wick Test – Bordering on enthusiast-level testing, Extra-virgin olive oil is flammable enough to keep a dry wick burning. It will also burn without producing any noticeable smoke. If your olive oil will not keep a wick lit (or if it can, but produces a lot of smoke)most likely it is fake.
The best way to know for sure, is to buy local. Consumer reports has also been found that Olive oil from California was generally better than imported oils from Italy and Spain.
Oils that passed OIC testing
Olea Estates 100% extra virgin olive oil
Corto Olive – can sometimes be purchased at Cosco.
Cobram Estate – Australia’s most awarded extra virgin olive oil
McEvoy Ranch Organic