How do you know that what’s on your olive oil label is true? Don’t be fooled by fake olive oil. Read our guide and learn how to find an olive oil you can trust and freshness you can taste.
Is your olive oil label telling the truth?
Standing in the cooking oil section of the store where you often shop, you scan the shelf for a good extra virgin
olive oil. You’re well aware of the health benefits, proven in tests and touted in medical journals, as well as lifestyle
magazines. You want to experience the superior taste of oil from freshly pressed olives. You start to reach for a bottle
with an authentic-sounding name and a lovely Tuscan landscape on the label. But you pause, remembering what
you’ve heard in the media about fraud in the olive oil industry today.
Olive Oil Fraud & Olive Oil Fakes
Misrepresenting or adulterating olive oil has been a lucrative — and illegal — business for thousands of years. In fact, cuneiform tablets in the twenty-fourth century B.C. — the earliest written reference to olive oil — record that teams of inspectors, looking for fraudulent practices, visited olive mills on behalf of the king. Today it’s organized crime that keeps investigators on their trail. And the Agro-Mafia, as it’s called, seems to be winning.
According to a recent 60 Minutes story and an investigative report in the New Yorker magazine, in the United States today “70% of extra virgin olive oil is probably a fraud.” Extra virgin olive oil is time-consuming and costly to produce. Odds are, the olive oil labeled “extra virgin” currently in your kitchen might very well have been mixed with other oils. Or worse, it’s not olive oil at all, but a vegetable oil disguised with coloring and synthetic aroma.
“Profits are comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks.” – Tom Mueller, in the New Yorker magazine, writing about the practice of trafficking in fake olive oil
So how do you know that your olive oil is authentic?
As a consumer, how can you be sure that the olive oil you use in your salads and sauté pan, in your pesto and pasta primavera is the real deal — 100% extra virgin olive oil with all the benefits that are naturally part of it? How do you know that bottle hasn’t been sitting stale on the grocer’s shelf for months?
This guide will delve into those questions, starting with what makes extra virgin olive oil so special.
The Wonders of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The olive is actually a stone fruit, like a cherry. And real extra virgin olive oil is a lot like fresh-squeezed fruit juice — made from olives ideally picked by hand, milled within hours, and crushed by a simple hydraulic press or centrifuge. True extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing and is free of any defects. Unlike other cooking oils, it’s the only one made without the use of chemicals, heat, or industrial refining.
“When you walk into the mill, you are just hit with this extraordinary aroma of olive oil that is just so pleasing, it
makes the hair on the back of your neck kind of stand up. It’s almost primeval how wonderful it is.” Guy Campanile, olive-oil aficionado
The Extra Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In part because of the special way it’s produced, extra virgin olive oil, unlike seed oils and non-extra virgin oils,
contains natural antioxidants, including polyphenols — a type of antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.
It’s also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids — a healthier dietary fat, compared to saturated and trans fats. Extensive studies over the last 50 years have concluded that all sorts of health benefits come from extra virgin olive oil. Researchers have found that by consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in EVOO, you can:
• Significantly lower the risk of having a heart attack, suffering from a stroke, or dying of heart disease
• Better regulate insulin levels
• Strengthen your immune system
• Reduce the risk of certain cancers
• Improve digestive and brain health
Why Getting the Real Thing Matters
“When companies taint the oil, consumers lose that wonderful cocktail of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants,” says journalist and industry expert, Tom Mueller.
So can you get the real thing and the peace of mind that comes with it?
We Olive – Freshness You Can Taste
Concerned about rampant EVOO fraud, olive oil lovers have been looking for ways to make sure they’re not getting ripped off. They’ve tried the “taste test,” the “fridge test,” and the “oil lamp test” but these do-it-yourself measures have been proven completely unreliable.
Truthfully, there is only one way to be absolutely sure your olive oil is exta virgin . . .
At We Olive we’re as passionate about quality olive oil as you are. And we specialize in providing locally sourced, artisan extra virgin olive oils. Our products come directly from a trusted network of local growers — many of them family-run businesses. Real people, not faceless buyers for multi-national corporations or “middle-men” with
A recent study done by the University of California Davis found that domestic olive oil from single producers or co-ops was always real.
The California Difference
Olive trees do best in a Mediterranean climate like California’s — with its long dry summers and mild winters. And all of our extra virgin olive oils come from California. Here over 100 growers — spread over the myriad soil types and microclimates that characterize this state — produce more than 350 different kinds of olives. Together they create the almost limitless variety of flavor possibilities for the extra virgin olive oils We Olive offers. Depending on the type of olive, its degree of ripeness, and the milling technique, the flavors of the olive oils we feature vary from buttery
to bright to bold, and can range from subtle to intense.
Olive oil is best used within a year, but imported olive oils can take almost that long to reach your table. Even certified extra virgin can sit in storage drum for two years before it reaches the shelves in the grocery store. With the California growers we partner with, the time from harvest to your home can be as short as a couple of weeks,
sometimes even days!
Certified Extra Virgin by the California Olive Oil Council
Each extra-virgin olive oil We Olive offers has been certified as “extra virgin” by the California Olive Oil Council. With the COOC seal, you know it’s real.
Even though the extra virgin olive oil market in America is a billion-and-a-half dollar business — and growing — the
Food and Drug Administration doesn’t routinely test oils for adulteration. So the California Olive Oil Council has stepped up to give consumers peace of mind through its extra virgin certification, a rigorous two-step process that
follows every harvest.
• Each oil undergoes a chemical analysis that tests criteria for EVOO, including acidity levels.
• After the chemical requirements have been verified, a highly-trained panel of olive oil experts tastes the oil in a blind test to make extra sure it’s everything “extra virgin” is meant to be. The COOC Seal means the oil in the bottle is 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, no filler oils, no defects, no corners cut. It also indicates that it’s
been cold-pressed and has an acidity level less than .5%.
“There are not enough resources to control the over 350,000 tons of olive oil entering the country. That’s why, even after scandals, adulterated olive oil bottles are still on supermarket shelves.” – David Neuman, CEO of the Greek food company, Gaea North America
A 2010 study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that 69 percent of imported olive oil labeled “extra virgin” did not meet, in an expert taste and smell test, the standard for that label.
Better than just genuine. Extraordinary.
Even among certifiably genuine extra virgin olive oils there are gradations in freshness, quality and taste. At We
Olive we’ve gone – and regularly go — in search of only the finest olive oils the Golden State has to offer. We’ve chatted with California growers in the shade of their olive trees. Wiped the dust of the groves from the soles our shoes. And standing in the middle of many an artisan mill, breathed in the oh-so-wonderful aroma of the first pressing.
We know our growers. They know us. And the relationship we share benefits everyone who’s ever opened a bottle of
EVOO from We Olive. Any foodie will tell you that tasting freshly pressed EVOO for the first time is transformational.
It’s All About Taste
The extra virgin olive oils you’ll find at We Olive you won’t typically find in supermarkets or discount warehouses or even in smaller upscale markets. The variety and quality of our EVOOs is rivaled only by how good they taste and how much they add to all kinds of recipes – from marinades to salad dressings, pastas to delicious dipping sauces.
Whether you cook every day or lavishly when you entertain, let our EVOOs – some of them infused with flavors like basil or garlic or blood orange – take your favorite recipes to a whole new place.
“You gotta have good olive oil.” – Chef Emeril Lagasse