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Dec 30, 2008 04:16 AM

How Fresh Is That Olive Oil You're Using? A Must Read If You Like Olive Oil...

I recently came across an interesting video here on chow about Roundpond Olive
Oil and their attention to quality. Anyone interested in oil production should
give this a view:

After watching this video, I have to laugh at the attitudes of some of the larger production houses and what they consider to be quality A while back I started to do a great deal of research on oils wondering why some of these oils sold in supermarkets tasted like, well, nothing. After a few phone calls I learned that most of these oils were treated with heat, chemicals and even "secret proprietary processes" that couldn't be revealed! Huh?

Anyone that ever tasted really fresh oil (a few hours old) can vouch for the fact that it'll scar you for life, as it did for me. Try drizzling some Manni oil over your next meal and you simply can't ever buy from the supermarket again.

When you buy quality oils, they'll tell you when the olives were picked and how long it took to reach the bottle. You'll know the exact age of the oil down to the hour. Ever try and decipher the age of olive oil from supermarket varieties? It’s tough because they intentionally try and hide the production dates by using “lot numbers”.

As an example, take Colavita. Now before I move on, please make sure you watch the Chow video first. Colavita customer service will tell you that they’re oil has a shelf life of 2 years (from when you buy it!). First off, wow! Second, I asked them why they couldn’t just print the date the oil was made on the bottle? Couldn’t really get an answer on that one. But I did manage to squeeze their coding system out of them, after a few more phone calls.

If you pick up a bottle of Colavita oil and read the lot code, here how to interpret the manufacture date of the oil. This is a cut and paste directly from the e-mail they finally sent me:


To Whom It May Concern:

A lot code is imprinted on every imported container of olive oil produced by Colavita. The code can be found either on the back label (if a glass bottle) or on top (if tin). The format is as follows:

L00 000 A XXXX

Where: “L” means Lot.
“00” indicates the last two digits of the year
“000” indicates progressive day of the year (from 001 to 365).
“A” represents the first daily shift, “B” the second and “C” the third.
“XXXX” refers to an internal tracking number used to trace the product throughout the entire production process.

Each outer carton is also marked with a lot code. This code is identical to the one imprinted on each container packed therein.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (908) 862-5454, extension 124.

Thank you.


Teresa M. D’Errico
Director of Client Services

At the time I had a bottle of Colavita Extra Virgin bought from one of those huge liquidator stores and, after I did the math, the oil was over 4 years old! No wonder it had no taste. Now add the claim that it has a shelf life for another 2 years! It just blows my mind when I hear ads for them claiming such quality and all the worthless claims of the olives coming from Italy. Who cares? It's usually too old to even matter.

I recently heard Chef Michael Colomeco, talk show host, on the radio saying it the best oil he's ever tasted. Ouch Mike! Ah the fibs we tell for the sake of sponsorship…

I’d like chowhounders to look under their cabinets and see what they're really pouring on their salads. I steer clear of any oil that doesn't clearly label the production date on the bottle. I just think deception and food should never go together. When it comes to olive oil, unlike motor oil, the age is a significant factor regarding quality.

Billy Parsons, over and out

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  1. Oh YAY!! Brought back from the nether regions. Now I can print it out. Many thanx!

    1. Thanks for the info on the codes. I'm afraid to go look in my cabinet. I just use grocery store olive oil for cooking and my special olive oils for dressings and cold applications.

      I was fortunate enough to go to a food show in Paris last year and tasted a 'flight' of olive oils from a producer in Provence. It was heavenly. I re-tasted one of the oils I brought home this weekend and it has lost a lot of its peppery flavor so I can't imagine what a four year old oil tastes like and I'm not going to try and find out!

      BTW, if anyone belongs to Costco they do get Tuscan olive oil every year from the current years (November) crop. I buy a few bottles when it comes in and then shed a tear when I run out during the year before the next crop is available.

      1. Unfortunately, it's long been a standard practice that the United States gets the "runt" of the European litter when it comes to olive oil. There are ,however, some very good Californian oils out there- especially right now. . . Bariani comes to mind as they are shipping their "October Harvest" oil. Amazing stuff!! FWIW I heartily endorse Colavita for frying in. . . It's inexpensive and unadulterated if a little long in the tooth.
        Thanks for the codes, Billy

          1. I have a bottle of Colavita fruttato, so I went and checked. It is dated about six months ago, I guess. I bought it at the store with a reasonable turnover in the Italian aisle, rather than the one with dusty bottles on the shelf. I appreciate knowing how to tell, apart from the dust.

            But, when does that mean the olives were picked, since they are Italian olives? Those are picked in November? Is the bottle date when it was pulled out of storage vats?