Olive oil often makes headlines for its health benefits with new studies popping up each year highlighting the properties in EVOO that fight heart disease and cancer. In recent years though, olive oil is also making news for darker reasons. This story on 60 Minutes about the Italian mafia’s practice of producing fake extra virgin olive oil aired recently and has olive oil consumers rightfully concerned. This mafioso-made fake olive oil often makes its way across the Atlantic and lands on grocery store shelves around the United States. As a consumer, how can you know that you are buying the real deal? Here are some tips for what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for EVOO.
1. Price. If you’re buying a liter of olive oil for $8 a bottle, you’re probably not buying 100% olive oil and there’s a slim chance that it’s extra virgin. True extra virgin olive oil is not cheap to produce, which is why some large oil producers blend olive oil with seed oils or use practices and extraction methods that do not comply with the standards for being designated ‘extra virgin’.
2. Harvest date. A good quality extra virgin olive oil will list a harvest date on the bottle. Olive oil is a fresh product that should be consumed within a year or so of bottling and a good producer wants you to enjoy their product at its best. If you don’t see a harvest date, move on!
3. Country of origin. This one is tricky. The majority of grocery store olive oils bear the label language ‘Made in Italy’. Italy produces some fantastic olive oils, but they probably aren’t sitting on your grocery store shelf. A lot of the oil you see touting Italian heritage is often made from olives grown in other countries like Morocco or Tunisia, and then shipped to Italy for bottling. There’s very little regulation on labeling of imports so it’s difficult to know if you’re actually getting what the label tells you. Phony imports often can sit in a warehouse for months before being sold, which is no way to treat a fresh product! If you buy California olive oil that is certified extra virgin by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), you can trust that you’re getting the freshest, true extra virgin olive oil. If you are buying imported olive oil, make sure it has a harvest date!
4. Know your retailer. You are most likely to find true extra virgin olive oil from a specialty retailer. Larger grocery stores may carry certified extra virgin olive oil, but you have to know your labels. Shopping a smaller retailer where you can talk directly with someone who knows exactly where the olive oil came from is your best bet.
At We Olive, we’ve created a tasting room environment for you to experience and enjoy our fresh, certified extra virgin olive oils, learn about the farmer that produced the olives, and even how to use it in your cooking. Find a location near you or buy your certified EVOO in our online shop today!