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Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

UC-Davis has just published an extensive report on the fraudulent labeling of extra-virgin olive oil. Imported olive oil has been known to often have fraudulent or misleading labels, now certain US brands have been found to be mislabeling their olive oil as well.

"More than two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren't what they claim to be, according to a report by researchers at UC Davis, " said the Los Angeles Times in the story linked to below.

Scroll down to page 10 of the UC-Davis report here for the chart of the various brands.

The tests to determine extra-vrigin oil (acidity, peroxide level, etc.) are listed and described.

"Lab tests cast doubt on olive oil's virginity"
Los Angeles Times

Found to have be fraudulently labeled as Extra-Virgin:
Whole Foods
Rachel Ray
Newman's Own
Filippo Berio

Found to be accurately labeled as Extra-Virgin:
Kirkland Organic
Corto Olive
California Olive Ranch
McEvoy Ranch Organic

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  1. i am anxious to read through the whole report. i was interested to read that corto and also the california olive ranch financially supported this research. that doesn't mean necessarily that it is biased, but it does require a keener look at their methodology.

    but, at first blush, this is shocking news of widespread fraud. do the perpetrators use a bulk importer, then re-bottle? (i guess i should read the report before asking too many questions).

    thanks for linking this here, maria lorraine.

    5 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      I guess now Rachel might call it E V Uh Oh!

      1. re: junescook

        LOL! all of them!

        newman's own! for shame!

        1. re: alkapal

          Funny, junescook.
          Boy oh boy are the RR EVOO Rachel Ray jokes going to rip.

          alkapal, I was surprised/saddened also by Newman's Own.

        2. re: junescook

          Or maybe E V Oh No! . . . sorry . . .

        3. Oh great. My husband just brought home a bottle of WF EVOO this weekend. He said it was cheaper than the other options. I guess there's a reason why.


          32 Replies
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            This was a relatively small study funded by the California olive industry. I'm not going to run over to the cupboard and throw out my extra v grown and pressed in the ancient Stop and Shop family olive groves. Actually, it probably comes from China so I'm likely safe.

            1. re: junescook

              Well, two things, I wouldn't throw it out, but I might return it, just on principle. (Although, of course, they will just throw it out.) But, also, I had sent my husband to the grocery store for evoo because I was making a vinaigrette for a salad I was bringing to a friend's house for a potluck. I was really disappointed by the olive oil--very generic and bland. I ended up calling her at the last minute and asking if she could whip up her own vinaigrette (not enough time to make a SECOND last minute trip to the grocery store.) It wasn't good enough to use in my salad dressing. Just in cooking at low temps.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen


                Hell, with my "sophisticated" palate, I am lucky that I can tell it's olive oil and not peanut oil, I wouldn't know there was any difference in any olive oil I use, except the price. I probably represent the greatest majority of the consuming public in this, so understand the temptation by bottlers to "creatively" label.

                Back in the stone age when I was a full time student and part time rent-a-cop one of the places I worked was a major label packing plant, they churned out jams, jellies, fruit preserves, ketchups, tomato sauces and related products. The raw materials came in via huge gondolas mounted on flat bed trailers or railroad cars, the processed materials left in cans and bottles that were labeled with that day's production run brand name, but it all came out of the same production line.

                1. re: ChinoWayne

                  That is funny: same product, different label. And, probably, different price.

                  I can't claim to be able to be able to distinguish a good olive oil from a great one, but what I can say is that in this vinaigrette recipe, where the flavor of the olive oil was really prominent, this particular olive oil was a disappointment. :(.


              2. re: junescook

                Seconding alkapal, I'm interested to read deeper. But when results are accurate and rigorous, they don't become less so because someone with a competing product funded the study.

                UC Davis has one of the leading US food-science departments, with high visibility and some excellent past work.

                1. re: eatzalot

                  Looks like the tests were quite rigorous. Excellent scientific panel, as well.

                  1. re: maria lorraine


                    Can you tell me why the tests are rigorous and why this an excellent scientific panel? Shoemarker is the only full professor in the team.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      A research team headed up by a full professor is the norm in academic research. No red flag there and certainly nothing unusual.

                      On edit: The lead author on this report, Edwin Frankel, is so well known in food oil quality research that there is an award given annually in his honor for the best paper in the field: " Edwin Frankel Award for Best Paper in Lipid Oxidation and Quality". I'd guess the guy knows what he's doing.

                      1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie


                        Thanks. As you put it "No red flag there and certainly nothing unusual". That is my point: nothing unusual.

                        Shoemarker is the full professor, but he does not head this investigation. Frankel is an adjunct professor. The rest of team are just normal, right? Selina Wang is a postdoc. Dan Flynn heads a very small group. Yes, I know he has an executive director title, but it is an inflated title. It is a group of one executive director, two assistant directors and intern. Think of an army with one general, two lieutenants and one soldier.


                        There is nothing really wrong with this team, but it seems like a normal team to me. I can randomly grab a paper out of an peer-reviewed journal, and a good% of the time, it will be authored by two professors, a postdoc and a staff.

                        Many review-articles are coauthored by 4-7 infamous professors in their respective fields, right? I am not sure if there is this "Wow" factor to this particular panel. Now, I am not saying that this makes their works any less. It does not, but the author list just does not jump out at me as impressive.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          I cannot agree. If you're looking for Wow factor, I think it's here. A bit of googling tells me that Shoemaker was the chairman of UC Davis's Food Science program (which is among the best in the world). Frankel looks to me like a fairly big fish in the food oil chemistry pond (see above). Mailer, the guy from Oz, certainly appears to have excellent credentials: "He heads the laboratory’s edible oil research program,which plays a leading role in national olive industry research, and is the Australian representative on the International Standards Organization (ISO) for Fats and Oils." And Wang, the postdoc, almost certainly did most of the lab work.

                          Ok, there's not a single Nobel Laureate in the bunch, but not too many of that bunch does food chemistry. In the world of food science, I think you would have a difficult time finding fault with the credibility of this group.

                          If I were to raise an issue it would be that it doesn't look like it's been peer reviewed. I would certainly feel better about it if it were.

                          1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                            I am aware that Shoemarker is the chairman. Chairman does not mean anything in this case. You should know chairman has a lot more to do with politics than academic. The person who get selected to the the Chemistry departmental chair or Physic departmental chair is the person who has to deal with daily affairs and business in the department, which can include overhead fee, lab space, graduate student rotation, availability of TA.... It really does not mean he is the most awesome researcher in the department.

                            It is like having the Dean of College in the paper. It is nice from a political point of view, but not necessary one way or the other from an academic angle. Mailer's CV does not impress me. I think there is a lot of inflated words, like Flynn.

                            Like I said, I can grab any review paper, and I will find 4-7 full professors who are renounced in their respective field. I just don't know if I am going to "Wow" every single time I come across a review article or a featured article. Otherwise, I have to "wow" a few times for every typical journal I read, and I probably have to burst into tears when I read something like Nature or Science.

                            Look, at the end, we just have to agree to disagree. I don't want to bad mouth any of them. I am sure they are fine people. You are very impressed with the author list. Me, not so much. You are not going to convince me, and I am not going to convince you.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              4 of the 5 specialize in olive oil chemistry. Here are the bios. Decide for yourself.

                              Dr. Edwin N. Frankel, Scientific Advisor. Dr. Frankel is among the world’s leading
                              authorities on lipid oxidation. An adjunct professor at the UC Davis Department of Food
                              Science and Technology, he ranked in 2003-04 as the world’s most-cited author of agricultural
                              research by the Institute for Scientific Information. Most recently he has authored “Chemistry
                              of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Adulteration, Oxidative Stability, and Antioxidants,” Journal of
                              Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010, 58, 5991-6006.

                              Dr. Rodney J. Mailer, Co-Investigator. Dr. Mailer has been involved in olive
                              research since 1996, and is the principal research scientist at the Australian Oils Research
                              Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, NSW. He heads the laboratory’s edible oil research program,
                              which plays a leading role in national olive industry research, and is the
                              Australian representative on the International Standards Organization (ISO)
                              for Fats and Oils.

                              Dr. Charles F. Shoemaker, Co-Investigator. Dr. Shoemaker is the co-chairman of the UC
                              Davis Olive Center and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and
                              Technology. He supervises the UC Davis Olive Oil Chemistry Laboratory. Dr. Shoemaker is
                              a specialist in food emulsions, micelles, microemulsions, and food separations.

                              Dr. Selina C. Wang, Co-Investigator. Dr. Wang received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC
                              Davis in 2008. She has since lectured for the UC Davis Department of Food
                              Science and Technology and is a research associate at the UC Davis Olive Oil
                              Chemistry Laboratory.

                              Dan Flynn, Consultant. Mr. Flynn is the executive director of the UC Davis
                              Olive Center, the only center of its kind in North America. He leads the
                              center’s efforts to promote research and education.

                              1. re: maria lorraine


                                I have seen this list before. It is not too different from the author description in the report. Almost every single journal article is published by people who specialized it in. You read a particle physic review article. It will be written by a particle physicist. You read a mass spectrometry article and it will be written by a mass spectrometrist. What is so special that an olive oil article which is written by people who do olive oil. It does not make it impressive.

                                If that is the definition of impressive, then every single article is very impressive.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Er, I think the point you make is that this study, like other studies in other fields, was done by people who work in the specific field. That doesn't seem like alarming. Do you just not like the results? What's the point?

                                  1. re: c oliver


                                    Yes, pretty much.

                                    The results seem fine overall. There a few points which I thought raise some questions. Maybe I will take a closer look, but when I first skimmed at it, I could not find QC (quality control) curves. It would be nice if QC curves are done.

                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                You’ve been very critical of this study, Chemical Kinetics. Design a better one.

                                List the specifics. Put together your dream scientific panel, and the tests that will be used.
                                List the equipment and methods – if not gas chromatography, then what?
                                What do you propose?

                                A healthy skepticism, I respect. But all you’ve done is curmudgeonly point out holes.

                                Tell us what you’d do to detect non-extra virgin olive oil labeled as extra virgin.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  I don't know what is the rationale that I have to design a better experiment to show there are issues with using a GC in this experiment. Even the authors themselves have acknowledged this. So they can point this out and I cannot? Scientific proofs are inevitably based on null hypothesis:


                                  The burden is always on the person who want to prove against the null hypothesis, not the other way around. If a person says eating fish causes cancer, the burden of proof is on that person. Other people do not have to prove fish is not carcinogen. In other words, the burden is not on me.

                                  GC/UV detection were done at a high temperature. These compounds decompose at high temperature. Isn't that an issue? The fact that I can come up a better or not better experiment, does not change the fact that high temperature GC introduces problems.

                                  Since you said "the tests were quite rigorous", can you explain how you come to this conclusion?

                                  My first impression would led me to do it on LC/MS/MS. Nevertheless, the fact that I can come to this conclusion or not, makes no difference in their conclusion. The reliability of their method (or any method) stands on its own. If their data are right, then they are correct no matter what other methods I can come up with. If their data are wrong, then they are wrong even if I cannot think of an alternative.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Actually, the burden of proof IS on you. You need to back up your statements and accusations with facts and critical analysis.

                                    You’ve stated this team of scientific experts does not have adequate scientific understanding to make the determinations they have. You’ve cited a lack of professorships, but not all chemists work in academia. You've provided no examination of their scientific credentials. Point out the holes in their scientific credentials and scientific knowledge that proves your statement. Otherwise, you're just saying they're not qualified to write this scientific paper but not why.

                                    You’ve also implied that the heat used in gas chromatography renders the test results unscientific.

                                    Prove it.

                                    Does heat skew the result in every single one of the lab tests?

                                    How many of compounds analyzed are heat stable and thus unaffected by heat? (Take a close look.)

                                    If there is a difference in lab result because of heat, is that difference clinically significant?

                                    Asked anoher way, is the difference big enough to render the test result invalid?

                                    Are the test results for non extra-virgin olive oil so close in value to those for extra-virgin olive oil
                                    that, when correcting for GC heat, the results would then be normal?

                                    Are the organoleptic/sensory (human) analyses affected by heat?

                                    Analyze the numbers for us, showing us where -- in your considered opinion --
                                    the scientists reached their inaccurate conclusions.

                                    Until you do so, until you back up your own statements with facts and critical analysis,
                                    you're sounding like a dentist looking for cavities.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      "Actually, the burden of proof IS on you"

                                      Not true in my experience when my papers get reviewed or when I reviewed others' manuscripts. Since high temperature GC promotes degradations, it is the responsibility of the authors to ease my doubts, not my responsibility to prove they are wrong. It is never the responsibility of a reviewer to conduct an experiment for the authors. Are you telling me that the next time I submit my paper that if a reviewer raises a question about my experiment design, I can just reply "Prove me wrong"?

                                      “You’ve stated this team of scientific experts does not have adequate scientific understanding to make the determinations they have”

                                      When did I actually say this team does not have adequate scientific understanding? I said it is not a particularly impressive team, no different than an average author list I have seen. That does not translate into your accusation. “Not impressive” is far from being “not qualified”. If I say a car is not particularly impressive, does that mean it is not drivable?

                                      This is not a Phase I or Phase II study. I have no idea what clinically significant has anything to do with this. So, yes, it is not clinically significant.

                                      I didn't say the heat in this study makes the data unscientific. I believe I said it raises questions. Those are different.

                                      Do you know when two people read the same article that they can come out with different conclusions? I am not in a crusade to try to purse you. It appears that the fact that I have the slightest doubt bothers you. If you think there is nothing wrong with this article, fine with me. You just have to understand that other people can have their questions.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        This is obfuscation. We're talking about your statements. You said that heat raises questions. OK, for which tests? Did heat skew the result of only one test? What about the other nine or so? What's the confidence level of the test results? If the scientists' credentials are not impressive, what makes them not so, apart from their lack of professor status? What credentials would be impressive? Back up your statements. Give specifics.

                                        In short, subject your statements to the scientific rigor you demand of others.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          Like I said, if you like the paper, you like the paper. If this is an impressive author list which you have never seen, good for you. Why do you care that I am unimpressed? Did I tell you that you have to unimpressed? Why do you try to force me to say the list is impressive? I said it over and over. I just don't see the list any more impressive than most author lists I have seen in other papers.

                                          You just have to respect other people drawing a different conclusion. It is not my responsbility to do their experiments for them. Those questions you have are for authors not for readers (me).

                                          Have you ever written a peer-reviewed scientific manuscript?

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Just explain *your* statement that heat raises questions on the ten lab results. You've said several times you're not impressed by the authors' credentials. OK, I get that. Why not? What would impressive credentials be in olive oil chemistry?

                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                      An absolutely key point here is that the tests used are precisely the tests that are required for olive oils to be certified as extra virgin by the keepers of the international standards. I have no doubt that a knowledgeable chemist could come up with better, more sophisticated methods of analysis, but that wouldn't tell us anything about the extra virginity of the oil.

                                      The facts here are: 1. the study tested oils using the international standards for extra virgin olive oil. 2. two thirds of the imported oils tested failed those tests despite their being labeled extra virgin. 3. nine tenths of the domestic oils tested checked out as being legitimately extra virgin.

                                      The interesting thing is that the US has no official criteria for allowing the label designation "extra virgin". Near as I can tell any olive oil can be labeled extra virgin in the US. The only rule is that it must contain olive oil and not be adulterated with some other food oil (which is often done if one believes several credible reports going back to that New Yorker article a few years ago). The USDA is on the edge of adopting the international standards for labeling olive oil. That would be a big step forward except for one reason: It's voluntary.

                                      At the end of the day, you have to trust your supplier. This report certainly leads me to consider our domestic oil producers as being a damn sight more deserving of that trust than the bulk oil importers.

                                      I wish that many more oils were tested. I would expect (based on my own personal taste tests) that a lot of imported oils would pass handily. But those oils would certainly not be the cheapest on the shelf as some of the failures in this group are.

                                      1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie


                                        Thanks. My original points are two. First, the author list does not jump out at me as extra impressive. It seems normal for any scientific journal article. Remember that you wrote that “No red flag there and certainly nothing unusual” and I agreed but focused on “nothing usual”. I also wrote "There is nothing really wrong with this team, but it seems like a normal team to me." Just because I don’t think the list is very impressive, it does not mean I think the list is horrible. It just looks average to me, like most scientific journal. It is not a put-down. If I have to say this is an impressive list, then I will have to say that for 70-80% of the journal articles I read, which inflate the meaning of “impressive”. If I have to rank the impressiveness of this author list, I rank it about 5-6 out of 10 (7 at the best). Maybe you give it a 9 or 10 among what you read. I don't know, but it is a personal thing.

                                        My second point is that this study is not what I consider as very rigorous, and certainly not what I consider an elegant study. Then again, I don’t think most journal articles are elegant. I also don’t believe a single of my own publications is elegant. Haven’t you ever gone to conference session, the speaker covered point to point very clearly and the experiments were well-controlled? At the end of the seminar, you said to yourself “Wow, I wish I can do that” and the rest of the audience gave a long clap. This study does not come across to me like that. It is unpolished with rough spots here and there.

                                        Think of it like movies. There are some real impressive movies and there are some really horrible ones. Majority are average and in between. I think when I said it is not impressive, it does not mean it is horrible.

                                        1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                          The new USDA standards for olive oil go into effect this fall. They're the same standards that the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and International Olive Council (IOC) use.

                                  2. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                    <<If I were to raise an issue it would be that it doesn't look like it's been peer reviewed. I would certainly feel better about it if it were.>>

                                    The study of the brands in the UC-Davis was an outgrowth of this peer-reviewed article in the May, 2010, The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:

                                    “Chemistry of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Adulteration, Oxidative Stability, and Antioxidants”
                                    Edwin N. Frankel
                                    Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis, California 95616
                                    J. Agric. Food Chem., 2010, 58 (10), pp 5991–6006
                                    DOI: 10.1021/jf1007677
                                    Publication Date (Web): April 30, 2010

                                    What we’ve been discussing is the “magazine article” or the news version of the story.
                                    The language is less scientific and technical, and there is far less detail on the methodology and results.

                                    Report: Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin” olive oil
                                    often fails international and USDA standards”

                                    1. re: maria lorraine


                                      The J. Agric Food Chem article appears to be a nice article. However, it is a perspective article or review article. It summarizes what other experts have done in the field. In this case, Frankel mentioned various avaliable analytical methods, from RP-HPLC, to APCI-MS. Frankel argues for two major points. First, many people focus too much on statistical methods and not enough on analytical methods. Second, too much literature is based on sensory tests which are highly variable and subjective.

                                      This perspective article is independent of the magazine article.

                                  3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    "4-7 infamous professors"

                                    INFAMOUS -- ??

                                    Infamous: Well known for some bad quality or deed,Wicked; abominable: "infamous misconduct"

                            2. re: eatzalot

                              >>>But when results are accurate and rigorous, they don't become less so because someone with a competing product funded the study.<<<
                              absolutely correct.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Corollary: Judge the researchers by the ultimate quality of their results, not the results by the researchers.

                                Chemicalkinetics raised some good technical points (though I couldn't tell whether Chemicalkinetics knows this particular specialty -- its literature, procedural conventions, related work). But that first comment about the team containing just one full professor (albeit in context of "scientific panel") raised a flag to me. Mary-Claire van Leunen in her _Handbook for Scholars_ (about 1979) wrote that in scholarly circles it's widely understood that the work's quality gauges the author's credentials, not vice versa. Maybe some specialties have protocols about certain occupational titles authoring papers. But in many years refereeing formal technical papers I've always focused on the work itself.

                                Advertising an author's formal rank or credentials, as if that measured the quality of his/her conclusions (rather than vice versa), is a practice I associate more with pop culture, like TV documentaries or mail-order psychics.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Olive oil (unlike, say, quasars or classical philology) is an intensely practical, commercial topic. In such situations, the best science may even come from industry workers without academic position, who merely know the subject best. Contrast the discussion above about whether the author list is "impressive" (measured, please note, by academic titles or labels, without even reference to the authors' peer standing, past body of work, citation in other work, etc.).

                                    Also, researchers with dramatic results do, obviously, bear a burden of proof to their field. They bear NO responsibility to satisfy casual Internet critics who (standing on one foot?) show uncertain familiarity with the specialty, and acknowledge just skimming the work. (Casual critics have been the curse of other Internet consumer-science discussions for the decades I've been reading them.)

                        2. Yes, I've heard about this for quite some time now. Thanks for including the report. Someone I know has said that the highest figure he has found was 50% of extra virgin olive oil was canola. He didn't mention the brand.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            The amount of fraud on packaged goods labels is staggering. For kicks, I occasionally read the list of FDA lawsuits for fraudulent claims -- most of this stuff never gets in the news. The few manufacturers the FDA actually sues is just a small portion of who could be sued. And, of course, the FDA is no paragon of virtue either. Oh my, I'm sounding cynical.

                              1. re: coney with everything

                                I don't know what that means, but with the new USDA standards in place this fall, that means olive oil companies will be much more vigilant regarding storage issues even after the oil is pressed. They'll have to make sure that storage issues don't cause the extra virgin oil to degrade into virgin oil, and that the consumer actually gets what s/he pays for. This is good news, especially when a bottle of good extra virgin olive oil can cost anywhere from $13 to $30.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  while an extra virgin oil can degrade from heat (i get that), isn't a first-pressed ("extra virgin") oil *always* a first-pressed oil? i guess you're referring to its acidity?
                                  for regulatory purposes, it is in the range of "virgin" oils, but in reality it is "extra-virgin" (first press) in origin. that fact doesn't change, though, regardless of the acidity level or regulatory criteria.

                                  am i confused about extra virgin vs. virgin, maria?

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Cold pressing is only part of the equation, and it's the easy part. A bigger issue is the freshness of the olives. Olives have to be pressed within 24 (12 is better) hours of harvest. They start to deteriorate as soon as they are picked. With time, free acidity starts to go up and they become rancid and moldy. This is especially a problem in traditional, low-tech areas. One advantage California has is that everything is new and designed to get the olives from the trees and through the press quickly. Many millions of dollars have been invested in building some of the largest capacity oil mills in the world.

                                    Of course, there are lots of new, highly efficient oil mills in Europe too. But there are still many, many old and inefficient ones there. And lots of small scale orchards where farmers hold their olives for days to accumulate enough to take to the mill. A lot of the supermarket oils coming from Europe try to position themselves as being Italian, but if you read the small print, you'll see that they are simply blended and bottled in Italy. The oil itself may be from anywhere. A lot of it is from Tunisia which produces a tremendous amount of olive oil but is especially problematic in terms of quality control.

                                    1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                      Easy part? Almost NO olive oil anymore is actually cold pressed....Its such a blatant lie. ...I've visited 13 olive mills all over Italy and Greece, and they all laugh when you mention cold press.....cold press is what they do when they turn out a few hundred liters for their own personal use...Almost everything on the shelves uses hot water during the washing process.

                                    2. re: alkapal

                                      Re: alkapal

                                      When extra virgin olive oil is stored on store shelves for too long, or stored improperly (at too high a heat) or exposed to light, it is no longer an extra virgin oil and won't taste like one.

                                      That's where the many brands on store shelves fall short, and how consumers are deceived. The bottles are labeled extra virgin, but the contents are not. This is why it is important for manufacturer reps to swap out stock on store shelves. This will become law this October, 2010.

                                      Certain chemical changes take place in old or improperly stored EVOO. The polyphenols decrease, which means a decrease in aroma and flavor. Oxidation increases, and this is measured both as a peroxide value and as the number of conjugated dienes and trienes (the unconjugated bonds become conjugated with oxidation). "Acidity" in olive oil is a bit of misnomer, since pH doesn't apply to oils. What "acidity" refers to is free fatty acids (FFA), which break off the main fat molecule triacylglycerols (TGA), if the olives have a long lag time between picking and pressing, if the olives are damaged in processing, or if heat or solvents are used in processing. Acidity doesn't increase with age.

                                      The standard rule still applies: A consumer should never buy an extra virgin olive oil that is not from the latest harvest. Some brands are clearly date-stamped, but most brands have a date-code somewhere on the bottle that one needs to decipher. In that case, the year is fairly easy to detect, something as simple as 10 for 2010. The manufacturer's customer service hotline can help you decipher the date code if you're concerned you've purchased old oil.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        maria, how old is too old? And would that mean it should be tossed? I'm kinda miserly with the "better" stuff so maybe this is the perfect excuse not to be? TIA.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Wish I could tell you that this number of months was OK and this number was not. But we are talking months, not a full year, and the age of the oil when purchased from the store will have a great bearing on how long it can be held at home. Like Bob96 said, taste will tell you. I buy fresh a quart or half-gallon of EVOO from a nearby producer, and because I'm so concerned it's going to go bad, I store the bottle in the refrigerator and take out a small quantity every week or so.

                                          The first sign of age for me is that oil doesn't smell as fruity or aromatic, and the taste is no longer as alive and vibrant, as it once was. From that point forward, there's a steady decrease in aromatics and flavor, and a steady increase of subtle rancid aromas and flavors. Were I you, after I'd noticed a dropoff in aromas and flavors, I'd no longer use the oil as a finishing oil or in vinaigrettes/dressings, but might use it for frying. Sorry I can't be more helpful that merely to say: Remember the smell and taste of the fresh extra virgin olive oil, and compare each subsequent taste of the oil against that.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            Maria, much of this applies also to food oils in general.

                                            Not only do desirable flavors change, but oxidation greatly accelerates when a bottle is opened periodically, letting fresh air in. Writers on food science have cautioned consumers for years to become sensitive to rancidity smells, and refrigerate oils (retarding degradation processes in general), because oxidized oils are considered particularly unhealthy (however much Russ Parsons may write that they are catalytic in French frying). I notice rancidity smells developing in my (refrigerated) olive oils within a few months of opening, so I buy only moderate amounts at a time, and mark the date when I get them.

                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              Maria, the point you make about time speaks loudly to me. I used to buy a large (maybe 1 1/2 - 2 liter) bottle of Colavita in BJ's thinking I was saving money. By the time I got to the second half of the bottle, it started to smell off, then rancid to me. Now I'll buy a pint of whatever looks nice and is fairly reasonable in the market and at least have not have not had any rancidity issues.

                                            2. re: c oliver

                                              Try to use it within a year of harvest date. If you have Fall 2009 - Winter 2010 oil in the cupboard, plan to use it up by the time the 2010-11 oils start hitting the shelves.

                                              A lot of producers are getting into the Italian tradition of Olio Nuevo, ultrafresh oil that is usually avaiable in November. Sort of like Beaugolais Nouveau except that it's the very best quality, not a gimmick.

                                2. ML,

                                  I find the use of the word "fraud" a little strong here. Fraud means intentional deceit. The report itself only uses the word fraud in reference to "media reports of fraud" where olive oils have been adulterated with less expensive oils or refined olive oil. This study did not find any conclusive evidence of adulteration.

                                  The most commonly failed chemical tests may be due to oxidative damage to the oil after it left the producer, say during shipping across an ocean, as opposed to being trucked fewer than a couple hundred miles across CA. I think the observation that different samples of the same brand tested differently supports this notion.

                                  While I don't question the motives of the scientists who produced this report or the veracity of their results, I don't think one can hang a claim of widespread fraud based on this evidence.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                    Also looks like they are all LC or GC/UV methods for most of the analytical methods, which can have interference measurements due to the relatively nonspecific of UV absorption. Unfortunately, that may be the limitation here which they are dealt with. GC is also a fairly questionable method to use here because GC is done at high temperature, so the analytes of interest will be unstable and undergo decomposition. It is a problem when the goal of the study is to look at decomposition while the analytical technique also promotes decomposition. At least the authors mentioned that. It is unfortunately, nevertheless.

                                    In addition, standard calibration curves can be off. That is one common error. Afterall, all the quantitation numbers are based on the integrity of those curves. Finally, I see standard curves, but I don't see QC curves. Maybe I missed it, but it would be a poor experimental design without quality control curves.

                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                      <<I find the use of the word "fraud" a little strong here.>>

                                      I thought about the word before I used it. False advertising and false billing are considered fraud.

                                      "Our laboratory tests found that samples of imported olive oil labeled as “extra virgin” and sold at retail
                                      locations in California often did not meet international and US standards."

                                      The study said that "chemical testing indicated that the samples failed extra virgin
                                      standards for reasons that include one or more of the following:
                                      • oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging;
                                      • adulteration with cheaper refined olive oil;
                                      • poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing flaws, and/or improper oil storage"

                                      Manufacturers had to have been aware that their oils were oxidized, had been diluted with cheaper oil, or were made from less than quality fruit sources. If they were not aware, then that lack of oversight and quality control is the problem.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Sorry, I'm still not seeing fraud here. There are too many sample to sample variations to make me comfortable with such a condemnation. Look, for example at the Safeway select brand. Two of the samples pass all objective chemical tests, while one fails significantly on four of the tests. This leads me to wonder whether that one sample was somehow mishandled by someone other than the producer or if the testing methods have a wide degree of variability. I also am not comfortable tacking a fraud label on someone strictly based on sensory tests. All three of the Filipo Berio samples passed all objective tests but two of the three were labeled "virgin" by the sensory panel. I'm not going to accuse someone of a crime based on that evidence.

                                        1. re: kmcarr

                                          I responded to this below. Appreciate your concern.

                                    2. If it were a private lab doing the test, I would be more wary of the connection between the lab and the CA Olive Council. However, this is a university where funding lives and dies based upon their reputation. UC Davis is a very credible university with a well known food science program.

                                      Also, I'm always skeptical of "imported" goods so I guess I'm not surprised by the results.

                                      1. I cant' find Kirkland Organic on sale anywhere. Does anyone know about this? I've done a google search and checked the costco website with no luck.

                                        7 Replies
                                          1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                            You are correct. Also, I doubt you (Steve) will find it on the website since the website is geared towards online sales and delivery.

                                          2. re: Steve


                                            It might be the "Kirkland Tuscan" sold in 1 ltr. bottles. I just finished one but the bottle has already been taken by recycling. Now I am curious, as I do not recall a label of just "organic'.

                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                              Just checked mine. Not labeled organic.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                I think it's sold in 2 packs (maybe 2L each?) at our Tucson Costco. I want to say that I just started seeing the Organic version in the past 6 months or so (it was even on the end cap the last time I was there). I haven't bought any in a couple months, but I want to say the 2 bottles cost about $20...

                                                1. re: pjbarry21

                                                  In my Costco (Reno) the "regular" Kirkland brand is sold in 2L, the Tuscan in 1L. I switched to it several months ago for my every day oo cause MMRuth liked it.

                                            2. re: Steve

                                              (Canada Costco). There is Kirkland Olive Oil that comes in a 5 litre container, does not claim to be virginal. That's my 'cooking' oil. Not a lot of flavour, but that is what I want.

                                              Kirkland EVOO 2L. "Produced from Italian Grown-Olives FirstCold (sic) Pressed."
                                              (Odd way of phrasing it) And on the back "produce of Italy". I like this in Hummus and other things where I want olive oil, but not as the primary flavour.

                                              I do not have the organic one. Costco also sell an unfiltered "IL GREZZO italiano 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil". That is distinctly olive-y. That goes in dressings. And the 'unfiltered look' that offends some disappears in an emulsification.

                                              And I do not really care if they are not entirely what they, these are products I enjoy.

                                            3. "Fraud" is a pretty strong word. No doubt there's a problem with producers adulterating extra-virgin olive oil with cheaper stuff, but a quick glance doesn't indicate that this study found any such shenanigans.

                                              Rather, most of the oils that failed to meet the "extra-virgin" criteria did so because of products of oxidation. And the study specifically notes that these flaws can be caused by "exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging," and by "improper storage." And there's no indication that these conditions must occur prior to the time the oil leaves the producer's hands.

                                              Let's say a producer makes some stuff that meets all the criteria for an extra-virgin olive oil on the day it leaves the production facility. And let's further assume that the oil is mishandled in a way that produces flaws before it reaches the retail store where it's sold. The producer correctly labeled the bottle. Neither the shipping company nor the wholesaler made any representations as to the quality of the oil. And the retailer has no way of knowing that it fails to meet the standards for EVOO. So who exactly has committed fraud? Nobody.

                                              Finally, most of the oils that failed the test did so because they did not meet PPP and DAG standards. But those standards are not used in the US or Australia (the two countries where the study was conducted). Rather, they appear to be regulations imposed in Germany and Austria. The researchers may simply be using those standards to validate subjective sensory tests, but they need to say so specifically.

                                              I have no doubt that olive oil is routinely mishandled, that the mishandling increases with the length of the distribution chain, and that it adversely affects taste. (That's why I like to buy Bariani olive oil from Signor Bariani, who drives it directly from the orchard near Sacramento to the market.) But to say that selling mishandled olive oil is "fraudulent" is like saying that selling skunked beer is fraudulent. The argument just doesn't hold water.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                Hi, Alan,

                                                The consumer has not received what is listed on the bottle. This is fraud, not on the level of Bernie Madoff, but still fraud since the consumer has been deceived in a financial transaction. I use the word fraud in the way the FDA does to describe food lavels that deceive the customer. Intent and negligence are key concepts, as you know.

                                                Here again are the three problem areas found in the mislabeled olive oils:

                                                • oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging;
                                                • adulteration with cheaper refined olive oil;
                                                • poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing flaws, and/or improper oil storage"

                                                Heat is rather obvious. If the manufacturer has used heat at all in the milling of his olive oil, it’s not extra virgin, and there is obvious intent to deceive. Elevated temperatures and light are often storage issues, but when storage issues cause the product to degrade chemically from qualifying as extra virgin to qualifying instead only as virgin, the manufacturer is still responsible because of inadequate quality control. Could the store or warehouse or trucking firm be partially culpable? Perhaps, but it is the manufacturer's responsibility to maintain QC with these contracted firms.

                                                Adulteration with cheaper refined oil demonstrates intent to defraud. Using damaged or overripe olives shows negligence and/or intent to deceive. The manufacturer is obviously aware of the freshness of the olives. Processing flaws could be simple ignorance of what is required to claim EV status. In any case, the product inside the bottle does not match the label description. Pretty standard procedure for an olive oil manufacturer to get labs on their oil.


                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  I agree completely that any producer that uses obviously inferior olives, adulterates oil, or extracts it with heat commits fraud if it labels the resulting product "extra virgin." And if any of the producers listed in the article are doing that, they deserve far worse than just having a nasty words written about them. But if heat and light damage occur at, say, the friendly local wholesale distribution center, there's nothing the producer can do about that.

                                                  I'm not sure where you get the notion that a producer has the responsibility to maintain QC with a warehouse on the other side of the globe. Although producers can make recommendations about storage and handling, it would really surprise me if they have any control over the product once it leaves their hands.

                                                  The message I take away from the study is that people are paying a premium for extra-virgin olive oil, and what they're getting doesn't meet that standard. The problem may be the result of malfeasance, deliberate nonfeasance, negligence, or simple ignorance. But the solution is more careful monitoring of the entire distribution chain.

                                                  It isn't enough just to get labs on the oil when it's pressed. The industry needs better QC all the way from the orchard to the customer's pantry. But if you seriously believe that Agromillora and Wal-Mart are going to absorb these costs, I've got a bridge you might be interested in buying.

                                                  While we should all be protected from outright fraud - adulteration, use of unapproved processes, etc. - when it comes to finding product that's been handled properly, it's caveat emptor. And that doesn't just go for olive oil, either; there are too many wholesalers and retailers that will "cook" wine by holding it at excessive temperature or skunk beer by exposing it to sunlight.

                                                  It'd be nice if everybody took food quality seriously but they don't. So it's up to us to know our sources.

                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                    Why QC matters once the EVOO leaves the mill, and why it will soon legally matter, is that EVOO is chemically defined. When it degrades from age or improper storage, it's no longer EVOO. That's why the brand reps for some brands remove dated EVOO from shelves. Check the harvest date, either clearly listed or date-coded somewhere on the bottle.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      >>"Sure, it was the store's fault, but shouldn't the winery care? Of course, it reflects upon the brand. "<<

                                                      +1. But presumably these are wineries that are a notch or two above Bronco or Casella (homes of ForestVille and Yellowtail, respectively). When it comes to mass-market commodity goods, you can't expect the producer or the retailer to invest that kind of time or effort in quality control.

                                                2. re: alanbarnes

                                                  Here here. There's no indication that the oils were below standard at time of production even if one source of the failure to meet standards could well have been mixture with refined olive oil. The tests were of products at the point of purchase, and as alanbarnes makes clear, wow, is it always a gamble when we buy--heat, age, and light, on the shelf and in the container and warehouse, do real damage.

                                                  The industrial brands that typically blend oils from different countries (Berio, Bertolli, Carapelli) raise those risks even more, since quality control must be even more difficult.
                                                  I've been burned too many times by value priced supermarket brands and stick to
                                                  grower labels, either from California (Bariani is great) or Italy (Barbera, or DOP labels). The Costco Kirland Tuscan EVOO is a great value at $12/ltr--it's a controlled Tuscan appellation, and date stamped with the harvest, usually the most recent, as it should be..
                                                  What we have are poor examples of extra virgin olive oil, all failing to meet international chemical standards most of us have little or no knowledge of.

                                                  The trick is to have our own organoleptic benchmarks: knowing what a genuine, fresh, extra virgin should taste like. This comes from tasting, not a bad thing, and places like Fairway offer many chances to taste and learn about many different types of oil. For example, some very traditional oils (Portugal, some Italian) are intended to have slightly higher acid levels than would come form crushing riper olives than those used, say by Tuscans. The taste--softer, warmer, flatter, even a bit funky--has a place and a following. In this test case, at least, there was no evidence of illegal mixing of other oils, but simply a failure of standard quality that could come from any number of predictable sources.

                                                  1. re: bob96

                                                    You make an excellent point. Each of us who uses EVOO should know what it is supposed to taste like. It has a different flavor, a different mouth feel, a different finish, from virgin olive oil. Several Chowhounds have already alluded to these flavor differences in this thread.

                                                    The only disagreement I have with your post is that "there was no indication that the oils were below standard at time of production." There were. You mention one of these, that the oils that were a "mixture with refined olive oil," something that were certainly be considered substandard at the time of production. But damaged and overripe olives used for milling are also substandard for EVOO, as are processing flaws, as is heat at the time of milling. EVOO has to meet certain testing criteria to be labeled EVOO (operational now, but soon to be law). Overseeing storage conditions that might cause the EVOO to degrade to virgin even after leaving the mill is the manufacturer's responsibility and SOP. Manufacturer reps for reputable brands regularly remove dated EVOO from shelves.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      Maria, I stand corrected. Thanks. The report does not, I think render one definitive cause, and I suspect hat there is and will always be poor EVOO being made even within EU standards. I do wish the larger brands would date their products in plain language; we may not always be able to control for handling, but should always pass by a bottle that's more than, say, 18 months old.

                                                3. Well crap, my regular 3 (Berio, Carapelli & Bertolli) are on there. On the plus side, I only ever bought them when they were several $$ off.

                                                  1. Call me cynical, I have always been suspect of virginal claims. And extra?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Not sure they are doing folks much of a service. Has anyone priced McEvoy Olive Oil lately? A teensy weensy bottle costs over $20. not too many of us can afford that for an everyday product. ;-p

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                        The main point is that mislabeling makes a product that isn't truly comparable look like a good buy, when it isn't. in fact. It's a different product, and accurately informing the consumer of what they're buying is definitely a service.

                                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                                          True enough, but McEvoy is one of those "beyond extra virgin" oils. Its market niche is comparable to high end wines and the like: extraordinarily high quality and a price to match. Clearly, not an oil for every day kitchen use.

                                                          But, excellent domestic oils are available at competitive prices. Try TJ's California Arbequina oil. If memory serves it's something like $6 (maybe 7) for a half liter. I have never been disappointed in the quality.


                                                            No, seriously, I'm really not all that shocked. (Maybe because Rachael Ray's name is included, and I automatically associate her with everything that is unsavory and poor quality.) I am pleased, however, to hear that Kirkland's is up to snuff. I wonder how Sciabica would test? It's my favorite California olive oil brand.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: Glam Foodie

                                                              not to get way OT, but i honestly don't "get" the rachael ray dig. unsavory? poor quality? to what products or practices what are you referring? (and i'm not being snarky here).

                                                                1. re: alkapal


                                                                  Her Furi knives are considered pretty bad. Actually pretty bad may be understatement.

                                                                  From cookingcahe.com:
                                                                  "Rachael Ray Knife with gusto grip model FUR827 ... is an exceptionally mediocre knife...the knives don't hold an edge very long even after we professionally re-sharpened the knives...Overall we give this knife a D."


                                                                  From zknives,
                                                                  "As Furi marketing brochure says: "Fully forged from finest German alloy, tampered to 56HRC", blah, blah. It's not even an ok performer..., those Furis underperform severely... Edge holding is sub-par, even compared to the cheaper knives at the same hardness. No wonder they promote 40° angle, lower that ... "

                                                                  Now this following Wusthof Grand Prix was the original Santoku Rachael Ray used, which is a much better knife, but then the Furi thing comes, right?


                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    <<is an exceptionally mediocre knife >>

                                                                    I see 'mediocre' is the new politically correct word for crappy, although still worse than 'very average'.

                                                                    1. re: Paulustrious


                                                                      I agree. The phase mediocre (now) can mean anything from "average" to "really bad". However, when the phrase "EXCEPTIONALLY mediocre" is written, you can almost feel the author was gritting his teeth to prevent himself from saying "horrible".

                                                                  2. re: alkapal

                                                                    I was DEFINITELY thinking of those same knives Chemicalkinetics brought up. Someone I know purchased one and ended up throwing it out, it was so terrible.

                                                                    Then of course I think of her food... a lot of it is mediocre but some of it is just terrible. Too many flavors going on, or too many cheapened versions of classic dishes.

                                                                2. So, what to do? That list pretty much covers every EVOO available at the local stores.
                                                                  The implication of this story is that just about ALL of us have NO IDEA what real EVOO tastes like, myself included. That includes chefs, cooks, critics and food snobs. Unless you actually watched the guy press the olives yourself, you couldn't know for sure.
                                                                  The olive oil biz has been historically "mobbed up" so I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised to find out things aren't on the up and up. Check out the attached story -- things may be improving:


                                                                  Then again, as the Who put it "Meet the new boss/ Same as the old boss". Since we likely won't know the difference anyway it 's unlikely that we won't get fooled again.

                                                                  1. Anybody can get screwed, taste buds notwithstanding. This New Yorker piece made me cynical quick about olive oil:


                                                                    56 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                      Let's be careful not to paint with too broad a brush. The New Yorker article doesn't point at olive oil; the subject is cheap, Italian, bulk olive oil. The same crapola that this report shows to be substandard. There is a lot of excellent olive oil out there, and -- again from this report -- the stuff from California seems to fall in that category. But, there's a lot of good imported oil as well. In general, I would say anything from Greece or Spain will meet the quality standards on the label, i.e, Extra Virgin is, in fact, Extra Virgin by the international standard.

                                                                      Unfortunately, some of the Italians have been parlaying the Italian "brand" and American gullibility to their advantage. To paraphrase H.L. Menken, "No one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American consumer."

                                                                      If I were going to give advice about buying olive oil, I say trust, in order: California, Spain and Greece. The overall taste or style will differ, but for those oils, if they say "extra virgin" they are probably legitimately extra virgin. The Greeks consume more olive oil per capita than anyone else. They are working hard to establish a Greek brand. You can't go wrong with EV Kalamata oil IMO. The Spanish are awash with olive oil. Southern Spain is planted horizon to horizon with olive trees. Mostly these are the Picual variety; some people don't like the flavor of Picual, but the oil is almost certainly not rancid or fusty. Finally, California's olive oil production is new, new enough that people involved know how to do it right and are not burdened with a crumbling infrastructure than makes it hard to do what has to be done.

                                                                      I'd stay away from anything that touts its Italianess unless it is top shelf stuff (read: Expensive). The Italians have simply lost credibility.

                                                                      And, one last rant: I would not buy anything that isn't dated with harvest date. Olive oil, unlike wine, does not get better with age. It gets worse. You want the freshest product you can buy. Anything more than a year -- two years max -- old is best passed up. Of course, sellers do not want to put a date on the bottle bcause they don't want to have to take it off the shelf. It is harvested in the Fall, so keep that in mind when thinking about how old it is.

                                                                      1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                                        Yes, let's be careful about painting with too broad a brush. It's wise to be wary of a too cheap to be good supermarket EVOO carying an Italianate name and/or the "Imported form Italy" line. In the US, an Italian name carries a lot more brandpower than a Greek or Spanish name--if there were, say, 23 million Greek Americans as there are Italian Americans and Greek food a (and its image) was as widely embraced as its Italian counterpart, and if Greece consumed more olive oil than it produced, you'd be sure to find fraudulent Greek oil shipped here to meet export demand. Sure, a chunk of the industrial oil market in Italy is "mobbed up", and the Italians themselves know this and attempt to control it. But to say "the" Italians have "simply lost credibility" is simple nonense.

                                                                        Like anything else, consumers need to know how to buy--EVOO is not a simple commodity but a speciality product defined against a standard. Those standards include some sense of our own of what to expect, and how to taste it. The DOP oils I buy from Sicily, Calabria, Liguria, and Umbria are the real thing. I know: I've bought and suffered through the fake stuff. I enjoy Spanish and Greek oils, too, but prefer the Italian range of tastes, and not only those at top prices. The Cutreri Tonda di Iblea DOP from Sicily, just to name one of my favorites, is a marvelous oil from a respected family firm at about $25/liter. That's the price one should expect to pay, except perhaps for house labels from trusted sources like Fairway. But you cannot blindly recommend or condemn an entire national output without knowing what to look for and how to judge it. By this rule, we'd never drink Burgundy, given the long history of enhancing pinot noir with grapes or juice from Spain and Italy. Seems the demand is always too much for the supply. A $9 Chambertin? Well, no. But a $9 Macon from a trusted grower. Sure.

                                                                        1. re: bob96

                                                                          I agree and I guess I wasn't clear that I certainly am aware that quality Italian oil exists. It would be stupid to suggest otherwise. The credibility problem has a lot to do with the culinary fascination with all things Italian (what I meant by the Italian brand) and the eagerness (and, perhaps, easiness) of some to exploit it.

                                                                          The problem with this report (and I suspect it is intentional) is that it encourages the "broad brush" condemnation of all imported olive oils, when the reality is that they selected trash imported oils they likely knew would probably fail. Then they presented the results in two categories and framed the conclusion as imported vs. California. They made no obvious effort to select imported olive oils comparable in quality (and price) to the California oils they selected.

                                                                          So, the way I see it, the take-home conclusion is: Avoid the swill. Unfortunately, a lot of the swill has positioned itself as "Italian" and there is ample evidence that this is one arena where "Italian" cannot be trusted. Sorry if that offends, but it's up to the Italians to clean up their act and put an end to the fraudulent labeling of olive oil sold under the Italian brand. Both the Greeks and the Spanish appear to have done that. The Californians seem to be doing it as well and are going to be aggressive about letting the consumer know. Good for them; there's no point in building a quality product if you cannot make the consumer aware of that quality.

                                                                          I'm just a bit put off by the attempt to put all imported olive oils in the same category.

                                                                          1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                                            Thanks. We're in agreement, and as an Italian American (whose family, as it happens, was in the business of making olive oil cans) I can't bear to read another embarrassing account of how easily fraud can become an Italian habit, especially in the south. That said, you're absolutely right on the report's shortcomings, and on your advice to (know) and avoid the swill. The Greeks and Spanish, I think, have had nothing to gain by playing the fraud game some Italians have--they need to grow market share. I applaud their efforts and respect and enjoy their products: I've had spectacular oil from Crete, and from Estremadura. Bariani's California blend of Italian varietals is also an amazing bargain. I guess the upside is there's a lot of terrific and genuine product out there, from many sources. Once we know how, and where, to look And what, and what not to, expect.

                                                                            1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                                              <<The problem with this report (and I suspect it is intentional) is that it encourages the "broad brush" condemnation of all imported olive oils, when the reality is that they selected trash imported oils they likely knew would probably fail. They made no obvious effort to select imported olive oils comparable in quality (and price) to the California oils they selected.>>

                                                                              My sense was that, with the oddball exception of uber-gourmet McEvoy, the oils tested were the mass-market brands available from regular grocery stores: Walmart, Bel-Air, Raley’s Costco, Safeway, Whole Foods, Nob Hill, Ralphs.*

                                                                              <<Then they presented the results in two categories and framed the conclusion as imported vs. California. >>

                                                                              At least to me, the oils themselves created two general categories. The California oils were often old and occasionally had refined olive oil added. The international mass-market oils were more often fresh, but also more often had refined olive oil added.

                                                                              A couple of the conclusions in the report don’t seem to follow the test results from both the US and Australia labs, so I don’t understand that. I’ll re-read the report to see if I’ve missed something.
                                                                              *The appendix to the report lists a lot more about the oil brands, tests, stores where the oils were purchased. http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/news-e...

                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                July 24, 2010... The Olive Oil Wars...

                                                                                In war, the first casualty is the truth. Aeschylus

                                                                                If one takes the time to decipher the data in the recent report published by the University of California at Davis and concludes, as the report strongly suggests, that olive oil produced in California is generally superior to olive oil produced elsewhere by nature of provenance, one must come to the study possessing a strong inclination towards self deception. Where olive oil is made is far less significant in determining quality than When, What, and How it is made. If one does not know the other more important variables, knowing where is less than useless, and is more often than not used as a ploy to make unsupportable self-serving claims. Provenance has its place, even in olive oil, but in this report it is clearly and intentionally misplaced. Lousy olive oil, as well as great olive oil, can be produced just about anywhere the olive tree flourishes. In fact, if one follows generally accepted practices and procedures it is difficult to make poor quality olive oil when crushing sound fruit. The real villain is the IOOC, NAOOA,(and now recently adopted and embraced by the COOC and unfortunately by the State of California) (sub) standards. They, (IOOC standards) encourage the production and sale of second rate olive oil. Period! They are outdated, absurdly low, and based on a pass of fail grading system. McEvoy gets the same grade as Costco's plastic jug. There are great olive oils being produced all over the world that cannot compete with the dregs that dominate supermarket shelves everywhere in the world and not just the US. Producers of quality olive oil all over the world are victimized every bit as much as this tiny group of pampered California producers. Throwing the quality minded producers of the world under the bus with the sleazeballs outed in this report is foolish, self-centered, counterproductive, and will create enemies of those we should be forming alliances with. Great idea that is long overdue. Pitiful execution. No cigar.

                                                                                <posted on behalf of Mike Bradley>

                                                                                We thought this might also be helpful:

                                                                                ---OLIVE OIL CHEMISTRY ESSENTIALS: What You Should Know--
                                                                                EXTRA VIRGIN describes a broad category of olive oils and should be viewed as a minimum standard and not an indication of superior quality. While it is true that all high quality olive oil is extra virgin it is equally true that most olive oils labeled EXTRA VIRGIN are not high quality. This is because the chemical and sensory parameters established for the grade are so broad that they include very average and mediocre as well as better qualities. There are no established OBJECTIVE standards for extra virgin olive oil in the United States or the world for that matter. Trade organizations like the IOOC, (International Olive Oil Council) NAOOA, (North American Olive Oil Association), COOC (California Olive Oil Council) are controlled by olive oil producers and not by any independent agency that represents the interests and welfare of the public. While these trade associations publish standards they are absurdly low and seldom if ever enforced. They function primarily as marketing associations for their respective members. In addition, olive oil is perishable and is generally better when it is fresher. Certain critical beneficial attributes like polyphenol levels, antioxidants, flavor and aromas decline over time while undesirable conditions like rancidity, and the formation of free radicals develop. There is a direct correlation between good chemical attributes and nutrition, shelf life, and taste. Olive oil is graded by both its attributes and its defects. Two of the most important POSITIVE chemical attributes are Polyphenol counts, and Oleic acid levels. The two most significant NEGATIVE chemical attributes are Free Fatty Acid levels and Peroxide values. In general, the higher the polyphenols counts and Oleic acid levels the better, and just the reverse for FFA’s and Peroxide values.

                                                                                OLIVE OIL TERMS
                                                                                POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES:

                                                                                POLYPHENOLS - Polyphenol intake has been associated with lower incidence of cancer and coronary heart disease (CHD) . Polyphenols give olive oil its unique taste and improve its shelf life. Some extra virgin olive oils contain far more, (up to 500% more) polyphenols than others. The time of harvest, the variety, the method of extraction, and the management of the grove will affect the phenol count. Processing or refining olive oil destroys the polyphenols in olive oil. Refined olive oils like “pure olive oil”, “lite olive oil”, and “pomace olive oil” have little or no polyphenols, but the same amount of calories. Heat, light, oxygen, and time cause polyphenol levels in olive oil to decline. Unfortunately, olive oil producers are not required to disclose the phenolic content in their olive oil. The polyphenol count is not part of the codex of standards required by the IOOC, NAOOA, or the COOC. As a general rule, the more robust oils have higher phenolic compounds than the milder oils. Olive oils with less than 120 (as expressed by mg/kg) are considered low. Virgin oils with a PPH count between 120 and 220 are considered medium. Olive oils with PPH counts above 220 are considered HIGH in polyphenols. Some of the more intense extra virgin olive oils will contain levels as high as 500.

                                                                                OLEIC ACID – OMEGA-9 monounsaturated fat is found at varying concentrations in virgin olive oil. It is believed to lower the risk of heart attack (CHD), arteriosclerosis, and cancer. Virgin olive oils containing higher levels of OLEIC ACID tend to be more stable and hold up longer. In this sense high oleic acid tends to act as a natural preservative. Oleic acid is measured in olive oil as a percentage. The levels range from 55% to 80%+. Extra virgin oils with low oleic acid levels and low polyphenol counts will have a markedly reduced shelf life.

                                                                                SOME NEGATIVE INDICATORS:

                                                                                In this case less is more.
                                                                                FREE FATTY ACIDS - FFA is the measurement of free fatty acids in olive oil. In a sense the FFA level is an indicator of the condition of the fruit at the time the oil was extracted. It’s like a freshness quotient. When olives begin to decompose the level of free fatty acid increases. Fruit on the tree decays at a slower rate than fruit that has been removed from the stem. Once the fruit has been picked or the skin is broken the fruit decomposes at an accelerated pace. Ripeness plays a large role in the level of FFA’s. Over ripe fruit produces a higher yield of oil to olive by weight but the free fatty acid increases as well. This is why there is so much substandard olive oil produced. Farmers are rewarded by a higher yield if they allow the fruit to become over ripe. FFA’s increase over time. Many olive oils that are close to the limit at the time of bottling become defective and outside the allowable limits soon after they are bottled or opened. When olive oil is exposed to air, light, or heat decomposition increases until the oil is unfit for human consumption. Rancid oil is harmful and a source of free radicals. Olives that are crushed within 24 hours of picking will generally produce a higher grade of extra virgin olive oil provided the quality of the fruit and accepted methods of extraction are followed. Though difficult, it is possible to crush the fruit within hours after picking. Some farms have a mill on or close to the the groves and manage to crush the olives within a few hours after picking. Fruit that is picked at the optimum level of ripeness and crushed within hours of picking will have much lower FFA and peroxide levels. In some cases as much as ten times lower than the IOOC standard. It is entirely reasonable to expect that sound olives crushed in a timely fashion will produce oil with an FFA level of .28% or less. Extra virgin olive oils with FFA levels above .35% should not be considered premium extra virgin olive oil. The IOOC allows an olive oil to be graded as extra virgin and have a FFA level of .8%. The COOC allows the oil to have an FFA level of .5% and still be graded as extra virgin.

                                                                                PEROXIDES - Peroxides are naturally occurring compounds in all edible oils. They are essentially a measurement of rancidity or oxidation. In the case of peroxides and olive oil, less is more. Peroxide values increase over time and are indicators of the level of oxidation at the time of processing and increase according to storage conditions. Poor storage conditions will cause rapid oxidation and rancidity. The more oxygen, light and heat the oil is exposed to the faster the oil will become rancid. Olive oil keeps far better in bulk than in tiny glass or clear plastic containers. High peroxide levels are an indication of poor processing practices, substandard fruit condition, old age, improper storage or any combination of these negative conditions. The IOOC rules state that (IOOC codex) extra virgin olive oils must show peroxides value under 20. (Expressed as meq O2/kg)

                                                                                1. re: evoochick

                                                                                  What do you think of the new USDA standards and definitions of grades that will go into effect in October?

                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                    The subject is extremely complicated. Attempts to provide a simple solution to very complex condition and situation will necessarily end in unsatisfactory results.

                                                                                    The IOOC standards are a joke, and not a very funny one if you are involved in the business of trying to produce quality extra virgin olive oil and a decent living at the same time anywhere in the world . The IOOC standards recently endorsed by the COOC, the State of California, and the Feds, in the words of Christian Gertz, (the German chemist responsible for promoting newer more sophisticated testing methods that catch some of the shenanigans uncovered in the Davis report} "a road map and recipe for fraud". It is not simply the testing methods that are flawed. The definitions, chemical parameters minimum standards, the naming of the grades, lack of meaningful shelf life and durability standards, etc etc. The IOOC is a trade organization that represents the interests of its member countries and those countries represent the interests of their olive oil industries. Virtually all of the refined oil in the world is produced by member countries of the IOOC and they are not interested in having this category defined reasonably or properly. If consumers world wide actually understood the meaning of the words, 100% Pure Olive Oil, or Lite Olive Oil, there would be a revolution in consumption in favor of extra virgin olive oil and the cost benefit reward for producing the authentic article would shift in a way that would benefit all producers of high quality extra virgin olive oil in the world. Very few Americans understand that over 60% of all the olive oil consumed in countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy is refined olive oil. The naming of the grades is intentionally deceptive. There is no nice way to put it. The allowable chemical parameters like FFA, and Peroxide values are ridiculously high. Even in third world countries like Tunisia where small farmers pick the fruit by hand and sometimes carry their produce by wagon and mule or pick up truck to the mills one can easily achieve an FFA measurement of .5 and peroxide values of less than 10 at production. Modern high efficent farms and mills easily reach FFA levels below .25 and PV levels of less than 6 on a routine basis. Oils with dramatically different shelf life, nutrition, chemical composition, and taste end up with the same grade. There is no way to tell one from the other unless you have laboratory at home or you learn how to tell the difference between fresh well made oil and what passes as EVO according to the standards created and sanctioned by the member countries whose industries produce the substandard oil.

                                                                                    The standards are written to support an industry that is in the business of producing refined olive oil. It is not in the interest of these refineries to clarify the grades or to educate consumers. We've adopted their standards and joined their club. When asked at the 2008 American Oil Chemist Society why The COOC was encouraging California to adopt IOOC rules and standards, the then President of the California Olive Oil Council and President of California Olive Ranch, responded with one word, "POLITICS". Mr Green later clarified his position by explaining that the NAOOA, (North American Olive Oil Association) had made it clear that they would block any attempts by COOC to create standards that were not in complete agreement with their own.

                                                                                    Wealthy individuals like McEvoy don't have to be competitive or even make a profit producing their outrageously expensive extra virgin olive oil. McEvoy herself has said as much in early interviews about why she decided to get in the Olive oil business in the first place. This observation is not a slam on McEvoy's olive oil. It happens to be one of the best oils made in the US on a consistent basis, and she has done a great deal to educate and promote high quality olive oil... But if California growers and producers are ever to become significant players in the olive oil industry worldwide we have to get serious as producers and not simply make good olive oil but do it efficiently and competitively. Anyone can make good olive oil if they have sound ripe fruit. The difficulty is making good olive oil at a competitive price. A good portion of the reason why prices are so low is that the standards for the grade are in the toilet and extra virgin is competing with refined olive oil and cannot possibly do it fairly. They are two completely different substances that have nothing in common except that they come from an olive. Refined olive oil has much more in common with canola or soybean oil but sells, on an industrial level for nearly the same price as EVO. These disparities in understanding and grades distort the market and make it nearly impossible for quality extra virgin to be recognized and priced fairly for what it is. This does not mean, like many California producers assert, that great olive oil costs 10.00 /500 ml to produce and make a profit. The best oil I tasted this year was produced at a profit for less than 2.00 /500ml in bulk and 3.00 bottled and packaged. That's a long way from 35.00. There is no doubt that California can and will become a real player in the big leagues if the spirit that has defined American farming and enterprise takes the lead. But if we resort to the tactics of the corrupt industry and adopt their standards and practices we will remain at a distinct disadvantage. The way forward is up. Raise the standards so that they make sense. Join with the quality minded producers world wide not in the business of refining olive oil and create standards that reward quality on the basis of discernible chemical and sensory attributes not driven by chauvinistic impulses that in the end destroy our credibility and promote enmity between should be allies.

                                                                                    1. re: evoochick

                                                                                      Are you talking about the NEW laws going into effect October, 2010? Your post appears to reference the old laws.

                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                        No. I am talking about the IOOC standards that California has adopted which are basically identical to the ones the Federal government is about to adopt.

                                                                                        1. re: evoochick

                                                                                          Have you studied the new rules? They're rather complex. Very interesting.

                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                            I have not studied them in depth but the primary parameters have not changed. FFA must be below .8, Peroxide value less than 20. Polyphenol counts are not part of the codex of standards, and C-181 or Oleic acid levels must be between 55 and 83. These are the key indicators of quality. They have not changed.

                                                                                            1. re: evoochick

                                                                                              The new olive oil laws cover so much more than what you've listed.

                                                                                              That's why you should read the new laws. You of all people would find them interesting and relevant.

                                                                                              The oil must meet a mandatory fatty acid profile of 13 acids, of which oleic acid is but one.
                                                                                              K232 and K270 must be measured (respectively, the conjugated bonds I mentioned and a measure of adulteration). There are individual maximums for C18:1T, C18:2T and C18:3T. Sterols must fit a particular profile. TGAs also. Stigs (which measure adulteration). The amount of pesticides, permissible impurities, metals, etc. all quantified. And on and on.

                                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                The three key parameters, FFA, Peroxide value, and C18-1 (Oleic acid) levels have not been changed as far as I know. The IOOC stipulates a maximum FFA level of .8, maximum peroxide value of 20, and minimum C18-1 percentage of 55%. If these parameters have not been raised or changed then the standards are largely unchanged. In addition, if the issue of shelf life and "best by dates" is not addressed, there is no need to look any further. All that a bottler needs to do is pass the test at the time the oil is bottled. Most bottlers, including the California producers listed in this study put an expiration or "best by date" on their bottle that is meaningless. Two year expiration dates are commonplace, and I've seen three year expiration dates. I just made a trip to Costco to purchase a 2/pk of the plastic jug of organic olive oil that passed the test. The oil is packed in clear PET. This oil is already at least seven to eight months old. While it is not "defective" by IOOC standards, from a sensory standpoint it is clearly awful tasting and probably one of the most unbalanced bitter oils I have ever tasted. It is overwhelmingly made from Spanish Picual olives in spite of it's label that lists Italian olive first and Spanish olives second. It's stamped on the back, "Best by September 2011." There is no way that this oil will keep for another year in this package. The old standards need to be junked and not simply reformed. I admit that I have become cynical and have pretty much given up on looking to the USDA for meaningful reform.

                                                                                                1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                  <<All that a bottler needs to do is pass the test at the time the oil is bottled. >>

                                                                                                  The fear of being publicly outed for old oil on store shelves or adulterated oil may be quite a deterrant for some producers.

                                                                                            2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                              Thank you for pointing out that the C18-1 was posted on another page and I missed it. This is a positive element and should be on the front page. Oils with high oleic and high poly's generally have longer shelf life. Low poly's and low oleic acid or C18-1 mean shorter shelf life. Durability is a key component when determining quality.

                                                                                    2. re: evoochick

                                                                                      <<as the report strongly suggests, that olive oil produced in California is generally superior to olive oil>>

                                                                                      My sense is that the report does not suggest this.

                                                                                      The US olive oils were often old and only sometimes adulterated; the imported brands were often adulterated but more often fresh. This doesn't suggest the superiority of either the US or imported oils.

                                                                                      <<Throwing the quality minded producers of the world under the bus with the sleazeballs outed in this report is foolish, self-centered, counterproductive...>>

                                                                                      Mass-market brands were chosen, with the exception of McEvoy, brands that could be purchased at large chain grocery stores. There was no effort to seek out the high-quality brands of any continent. You could say that the brands that were selected were the brands most Americans would have an opportunity to buy.

                                                                                      A subsequent study and chemical analysis of gourmet brands would be interesting.

                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                        Not true. The subjectively chosen California brands (CORE, Corto, McEvoy & Bariani-which failed based on an 'organoleptic' measure only) and the name of the study itself, "Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin”olive oil often fails international and USDA standards" is a clear indication as to how the reader and the general public are intended to respond to this study. CORE, Corto and Bariani are NOT mass-market brands in the same way that STAR, Bertoli and some of the other chosen International samples are.

                                                                                        1. re: evoochick

                                                                                          It appears your post from above is the exact same copy as that posted on the Tunisian Olive Oil Facebook page. Do you work for Tunisian Olive Oil?


                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                            Nope. I work for an olive oil company based out of Oakland California. People (including the Tunisian Olive Oil lobbyists) have repeatedly posted our chemistry note which is proven to be an invaluable tool in terms of olive oil chemistry education. Unlike others, we place little emphasis on appellation when it comes to olive oil and would rather educate.

                                                                                            1. re: evoochick

                                                                                              Is this Delizia Olive Oil? It's Tunisian Olive Oil, is it not?
                                                                                              Owned by Mike Bradley (you mentioned him above) and his wife, Veronica.

                                                                                              Many Tunisian olive oils are adulterated. Yours is probably not given the depth and ferocity of your passion. I understand your anger and frustration about being lumped in with deceptive olive oil importers, especially Tunisian importers, if your olive oil is a truly wonderful and legitimate product.

                                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                We do own a mill in Tunisia which represents the SMALLEST amount of oil that we import. We are currently importing from the Southern Hemisphere because the oil is just being produced now and it is the freshest in the world. All Northern hemisphere oil is at least eight months old now (including the passing California oils) still sitting on the shelf in our grocery markets. We do not have an agenda other than educating and promoting fresh, quality olive oil irregardless of origin.

                                                                                          2. re: evoochick

                                                                                            "Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin”olive oil often fails international and USDA standards"

                                                                                            That headline is accurate but unfortunate. The imported oils that were tested were more often adulterated, usually with refined olive oil. What was left out of the headline is that the US oils had often degraded because of age. But it's just a headline.

                                                                                            "The subjectively chosen California brands (CORE, Corto, McEvoy & Bariani..."

                                                                                            I don't know how you got "subjectively chosen." Purchasers visited grocery chains in Sacto, SF and LA, and purchased brands found at those chains. The oils tested had to have been found at a chain in each of the three cities.

                                                                                            The 207-page appendix goes into this more:

                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                              By sheer nature of the FACT that this study was financially backed in part, by CORE and Corto, the two samples (their own), in the least, were chosen completely on a subjective basis. I don't know how this key factor can not be considered anything but subjective sampling. A study is not viable when the test subjects involved represent its financiers. Lucero, CORE, Corto, Bariani and McEvoy are all single estate produced and milled olive oils. A broad based comparison has been made between imported, mixed bath tub oil and single estate produced California oil and the reader is left with the impression that imports are bad and that California oil is good. This could not be further from the truth. Once again, it has not a thing to do with where, but when and how.

                                                                                              1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                Evoochick, I appreciate the information you added to this discussion and I've not yet digested all of it. Please note:

                                                                                                1. Long text passages quoted in entirety here are readable, but with difficulty (longer threads scroll awkwardly). If the option exists, even if requiring some work, it's helpful to post a link to long passages instead.

                                                                                                2. A tip from one who's spent decades using technical facts and sorting assertions from contrasting realities: If you have evidence of authors' motivations, like "Provenance ... is intentionally misplaced" or "The subjectively chosen California brands," never just assert such claims -- demonstrate them. To help readers distinguish them from the earnest misinformation that crowds the Internet, freebie publications, bar talk, etc. etc. etc.

                                                                                                1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                  Thanks. I agree with point #1. Noted and very much appreciated. In terms of point #2, hopefully this has been demonstrated below and in ensuing discussions about how this test was financially promoted and backed by study participants.

                                                                                                  1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                    The point was made early in this discussion, link below -- I hope you read past postings before joining in with depth -- that _if_ scientific results are accurate, they don't become less so because of who funded the work. Implying that they automatically do so is a famous rhetorical device among demagogues, but alert criticism in this discussion (some of us have also done and published original research) focuses on examining the work itself, in more depth than that.


                                                                                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                      ...and we are in the process of refuting the accuracy of the report and test results based on many other factors, (such as the Oleic acid results being left out) which is a “shelf life” relevant chemical measurement that was not shown at all: The oleic acid measurement known as C18-1 is part of the IOOC, COOC and California codex of standards. Who decided to leave this very important measurement out of the published results? This measurement, more than any other, provides evidence about the shelf life and durability of the oil

                                                                                                      1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                        ... and you will want your analysis, when published, to be assessed on merit, I presume -- not just on the fact that (you said above) your firm (unlike even UC Davis) deals directly in imported olive oils.

                                                                                                        I still don't know that "We do not have an agenda other than educating and promoting fresh, quality olive oil irregardless of origin" doesn't apply equally to the UC-Davis group, in impartial assessment.

                                                                                                        1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                          <<(such as the Oleic acid results being left out)>>>
                                                                                                          <<Who decided to leave this very important measurement out of the published results? >>

                                                                                                          You missed it, that's all. It's the first test listed, as Free Fatty Acids (FFA).

                                                                                                          Far more specific tests than FFA were also used to measure olive oil age. As mentioned in a post above, oxidation was measured as both as a peroxide value and as the number of conjugated dienes and trienes (the unconjugated bonds become conjugated with oxidation). With age, fats break off from the main fat molecule triacylglycerols (TGA). These are DAGs (diacylglycerols) and they were also measured, as were other age markers like pyros (PPP), K232 and decreasing polyphenols. I count at least seven tests for olive oil age.

                                                                                                          The degree of redundancy in the age tests and their specificity is what made say above that I thought the tests were rigorous. The adulteration tests were nearly as redundant. Not only that, the sensory testers proved themselves to be pretty sharp, detecting some refined oils and flaws that the regular IOC and USDA tests did not register. That’s why the more sensitive German/Australian tests for detecting oxidized, adulterated and poor quality oils were also used, and why Dr. Frankel recommended that they always be used in olive oil testing.

                                                                                              2. re: evoochick

                                                                                                I'm not quite sure the choice of California oils was subjective. Seems to be a fairly representative sample of what's generally available here.

                                                                                                But maybe I'm wrong - can you **objectively** identify a brand of olive oil that's produced in California in quantities comparable to those churned out by Colavita, Bertoli, or STAR?

                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                  I wouldn't recommend buying anything that was produced in California right now as it is all going on eight or nine months old. Those California Arbequina high density oils that had horribly low Polyphenol levels and climbing peroxide levels (see test) in March are now most likely rancid and they are still on our grocery shelves and with added fervor no less, thanks to this report. To make things even more complicated, you should know that all Northern Hemisphere olive oil (today) is at least eight months old from production date (which was the reason behind the oil being selected and tested in March) This agenda, coupled with the selection process was clearly subjective. Believe it or not, the flunking California Barini had much higher polyphenols, than any of the CORE, Corto or Lucero samples and was much more in line with McEvoy from a chemical standpoint (even in terms of peroxide). It failed, not based on chemistry but only on an organolpetic basis... The polyphenols decrease as the oil ages and oxidizes and both Corto (82 Poly and below) and CORE (109 Poly and below) came in low already in this test in March.

                                                                                                  1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                    << the reason behind the oil being selected and tested in March>>

                                                                                                    No, no. March was just when Dr. Frankel's time was available -- this was right after he submitted the Journal olive oil chem article.

                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                      I don't know the details there, Maria, but I do suspect that these offhand assertions about author motivations (characteristically absent, by the way, from scholarly writing -- the referees would give the writer hell for it) may be of public interest if and when a formal response issues from this firm.

                                                                                                      What I mean is, people accustomed to arguing from hard evidence (rather than personal conviction) don't do that, and they notice it sharply when others do.

                                                                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                        Eatzalot, I understand and agree with your comment about dialetical rigor. Will support what I've said. My comment was in response to an unsupported comment that saw conspiracy b/c the study was done in March.

                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                          Maria, in case it was unclear above, the offhand assertions of author motivation that I referred to were by evoochick: the most recent ("which was the reason behind the oil being selected and tested in March") and earlier assertions posted here of the same type, which I'd already pointed out to evoochick.

                                                                                                          Earlier assertions of Davis authors' "intentionally misplaced" emphasis and "subjectively chosen California brands" were supported by comments like "this study was financially backed in part" by olive-oil firms, and a promise to refute "the accuracy of the [Davis] report and test results based on many other factors." Factors, presumably, other than the refutation's origin in another olive-oil firm, whose financial interest would be more direct than the UC-Davis report's, even though commercial sponsorship was just used by the same person to impugn Davis's study.

                                                                                                    2. re: evoochick

                                                                                                      As noted above, I buy Bariani oil (organoleptic faults or no) directly from the Bariani family. (FWIW, they use Mission and Manzanillo olives, not Arbequinas.) Sure, they only get one harvest a year, but olive growers have been meeting that challenge for about 7,000 years now.

                                                                                                      The way they do it is by storing the oil in controlled conditions and minimizing the amount it is handled. I'd far rather buy a nine-month-old oil that traveled twenty miles from the producer's climate-controlled storage facility on the morning of purchase than one-month-old oil that has spent its entire life on boats, trains, and trucks.

                                                                                                      Of course, old oil that's been mishandled is the worst of both worlds. And if it wasn't particularly good to start with, well ...

                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                        I buy Bariani too and I think they got a raw deal. I'm a fan. The high density Arb. I was referring to (above) were the 2 passing low poly Calif oils.

                                                                                                      2. re: evoochick

                                                                                                        <<all Northern Hemisphere olive oil (today) is at least eight months old from production date>>

                                                                                                        Do you have a link to some data for this?

                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                          The season begins in November and is generally finished by the end of January in Europe. In California, It will begin as early as October and is generally finished before the end of December.

                                                                                                          1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                            In wine regions, and this may be true for other regions, the harvest begins in November and goes through February. Oils harvests in other parts of the state may be earlier.

                                                                                                            Help me to understand your math that says Northern Hemisphere olive oil on the shelves is
                                                                                                            8 months old.

                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                              That is the difference between grapes and olives. In general, oil harvest is finished in California before Christmas. There are always exceptions.

                                                                                                              1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                                Certainly some of the state's best "estate" oils are harvested Nov-Feb.
                                                                                                                I still don't see how most Northern Hemisphere oils are 8 months old. Please explain. Thanks.

                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                  I don't understand the confusion. November 09 til July 10 is over eight months. All oils produced before December 09 are now over eight months old. If they were produced before November they are ten months old. When August comes oils produced in November will be ten months old etc...

                                                                                                                  1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                                    The source of the confusion was your reference to March and also today: "To make things even more complicated, you should know that all Northern Hemisphere olive oil (today) is at least eight months old from production date (which was the reason behind the oil being selected and tested in March)...The season begins in November and is generally finished by the end of January in Europe. In California, It will begin as early as October and is generally finished before the end of December."

                                                                                                                    So, the European oils would have been 2-4 months old during the March test, the US oils 1-3 months old in March. That is, if the shelf stock was swapped out for the new harvest (talked about in earlier posts). As it turns out, the US oils were probably from the harvest before, as the tests seemed to indicate. Ugh. BTW, the Appendix has some specific info on the date of each brand that you might find interesting.

                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                      Glad we are on the same page. Freshness is the key.

                                                                                                                      1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                                        <<Glad we are on the same page. Freshness is the key.>>

                                                                                                                        We are about freshness. That is highly evident from my earlier posts.

                                                                                                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                        under normal conditions (climate etc..) 70-75% of the crop in the NH is 'in the tank' by the first week in January and in Tuscany and Northern Italy, 90% is done before the end of November.

                                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                          There is no way to tell without knowing the specific harvest date of each oil tested. The PL and big brands from Europe almost never include a harvest date because more often than not, they are a combination of years and seasons. Only estate oils generally include or post on their label a harvest date. And in spite of what many of them post, as an expiration date, no olive oil is better when it gets older. They all go downhill with age.

                                                                                                                          1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                                            Like I said, the Appendix has some interesting date information....

                                                                                                                  2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                    If the olives are harvested in October, November, and December then they are now if harvested in October nine months old, If in November eight months old and if in December seven months old. Most of the California oils are finished before Christmas. The harvest looks like a bell curve with the peak in November. From mid November 09 till today is over eight months.

                                                                                                              2. re: evoochick

                                                                                                                This is more than a bit self-serving. You are an importer of olive oils from the southern hemisphere -- presumably Australia, Chiie and/or Argentina. So it is in your interest to trash California olive oils. You have no basis for claiming the California oils are likely rancid other than you think they could be (and, for the reasons stated above, you are hardly a credible, unbiased judge). And, if you are peddling Australian oil, you must certainly be aware that the Australians have been having a difficult time meeting the IOOC standards for EV oil -- to the extent that they are seriously discussing alternatives to the IOOC. If you can't make the grade, change the curve.

                                                                                                                As for the subjectivity of the testing: ALL olive oils must pass a subjective taste panel evaluation to qualify as EV... ALL. So it's part of the criterion. People like to downplay the value of panels, but absent a valid set of analytical criteria, it's what we have. The panels are trained, tested, certified and re-certified. Note too that the panel used here was Australian.

                                                                                                                Frankly, one simply cannot accept your trashing of the UC Davis study given your own commercial interests.

                                                                                                          2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                            in addition, none of the oils tested and characterized as 'imports" were from Olive oil producers. All of these oils are fabricated by bottlers and blenders, not growers. All of the California oils selected and tested were estate produced by growers. This is like comparing Gallo jug burgundy wine to Silver Oak estate Cabernet. The jug oils that dominate US supermarket shelves are NOT representative of European estate producers of a similar size and scale as the California ones. The problem is not European growers or producers. It's the bottlers and blenders who dominate the International olive oil market & the IOOC standards. A clear distinction should be made between these two groups. If you think that I am in any way supportive of this group that was outed, you are mistaken. We have been at war with the NAOOA and the IOOC over the river of defective olive oil flooding the US market for years and have begged the USDA, COOC, and anyone and everyone who would listen, to do something about it.

                                                                                                            1. re: evoochick

                                                                                                              I agree on the trash that's imported. But to the vast majority of american consumers "Italian" Extra Virgin olive oil on the label is the gold standard. Fighting with IOOC won't change that because the standard bottle of oil on the shelf has never seen IOOC testing. What's needed is an education of the American consumer and it's reports like this one that will help get that done.

                                                                                                              As for Euro "estate" produced oils, it is common to find oils on high-end market shelves that are 3, 4 even 5 years old. I don't care how good the stuff was when it went in the bottle, by three years it's trash.

                                                                                                              If any single thing can be done to assure quality in oilve oils, it's simply putting the production date on the label. Nothing is more important than freshness. Every day quality oils will last no more than 12-18 months. The best? Not more than 2 years.

                                                                                                  2. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                                                                    Sorry but you're preaching to the converted here. I'm not sensing any tarbrushes in action, either. The New Yorker article simply presented the problem. The worry remains the scope for fraud with so many known and unknown EVOO brands on offer across N. America. FYI, there's more bulk oil on the market than you suspect.Some of the worst I've pitched out were offbrands sold thru Italian deli/bakeries around Toronto. Distributors buy schlock cheap and sell to small retailers who mark it up--often trusting the word of a regular supplier of otherwise good quality merch. Sadly, Gresham's Law will likely kick in with reputable product and distributors suffering for the sins of unethical importers.

                                                                                                2. Maria Lorraine - thank you for putting this conversation on Chowhound, and then debating it thouroughly with the rest of the regular contributors and a few new folks.

                                                                                                  As usual, I have learned a ton and have this as a reference if I ever intend to go deep on the subject.

                                                                                                  That said, my habits won't change given this latest research or that done 10 years ago. In small amounts, I'll have a couple of high quality EVOOs (one Cali, one Spain), have a couple of lower grade picks from Costco, TJs, from who knows where, and assume I get exactly what I pay for...

                                                                                                  1. I read through the UC-Davis Olive Center's summary report (not the 207 pages of supporting lab data; I'm just not that dedicated)--it's not necessarily a matter of intentional fraud via tampering or selling oil that starts out at lower quality as extra virgin. The authors concluded it mostly was a matter of degradation, probably through poor shipping and storage conditions (exposure to light and heat) and sitting for months on store shelves. I put a link to the report on my blog (slowfoodfast.wordpress.com)

                                                                                                    If you look at the assay results tables, you first of all that all the downgrading from extravirgin or virgin was based primarily on the human sensory panel taste/odor/texture/appearance tests. The International Olive Council laboratory assay criteria were met for most of the oils and most of the component assays, with only a few components outside the acceptable range. If you relied on the chemical tests alone, most of those oils would have passed as extra virgin. If there had been serious tampering, you'd expect most of them to have more results outside the acceptable ranges for oxidation breakdown products, etc.

                                                                                                    On the other hand, it could be that the IOC standards are intentionally set low. The point of the paper was that the IOC standards, which the USDA is set to adopt, don't really flag the taste and quality differences between extra virgin and virgin very well compared with a couple of newer assays from Germany and Australia. Since the cost difference in the US makes it profitable to qualify as extra virgin, that might be something worth talking about, especially as the majority of what's available across the US is imported. The California industry's not big enough to distribute nationally. But do you really need top-grade extra virgin olive oil for every dish? We ourselves may have gotten too refined.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: SlowFoodFast

                                                                                                      No, you do not need top-grade e.v.o.o. for every dish, but you should get what they lead you to believe you are paying for.


                                                                                                      1. re: SlowFoodFast

                                                                                                        <<It's not necessarily a matter of intentional fraud via tampering or selling oil that starts out at lower quality as extra virgin.>>

                                                                                                        The tests on nearly all the imported oils revealed heat-processed oils, so refined oils that were not extra-virgin were present.

                                                                                                        <<The authors concluded it mostly was a matter of degradation, probably through poor shipping and storage conditions (exposure to light and heat) and sitting for months on store shelves.>>

                                                                                                        That’s true for nearly all of the American olive oils and for a few of the imported oils.

                                                                                                        <<If you look at the assay results tables, you first of all that all the downgrading from extravirgin or virgin was based primarily on the human sensory panel taste/odor/texture/appearance tests.>>

                                                                                                        Nearly all the negative sensory tests were confirmed by chemical tests: “The IOC/USDA chemistry standards confirmed negative sensory results in 31 percent of cases, while the German/Australian DAGs and PPP standards confirmed negative sensory results in 86 percent of cases.”

                                                                                                      2. Didn't really need a study to tell me that these are mediocre oils. If you've tasted truly good olive oil, then you'll know quickly that these brands make stuff mostly suitable for soap making.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                          Yes, indeed. It's only from tasting and remembering that we develop the sensory tools to decide. After all, even a DOC or AOC label for wine assures only provenance and "authenticity", not ultimate value nor deliciousness. For alfairfax, with whom I share the interest in and exhaustion from this thread, evoo can and should be available for everyday use. Find a reliable retailer. Look for growers', not importers', labels. Look for a place or origin, not a postal code.Look for and respect expiration dates. Look for DOP certification on, say, Italian labels. Avoid extra low prices. You should be prepared to spend around $20/liter for real evoo--there are ranges of taste, of course, from fat and soft Greek or California to leaner Spanish or Italian, but the basic taste profile should be constant. On this and other threads, Bariani (California) and Barbera (a full range of prices and versions, Sicily) come to mind. Olivo from Chile is a super buy, too. Greek/Cretan/Cypriot oils tend to be a safe bet--the Raineris estate is delicious. In my opinion, there is no need to spend $45/750ML. And the super-luxury Tuscans sometimes mentioned are just that---trophy take-homes for those who can drop $5000 for a Florentine "farmhouse" cooking school week.

                                                                                                          1. re: bob96

                                                                                                            For cooking, Trader Joe's President's Reserve is perfect. It's cheap, about $8 per 750ml. How do I know it's real (extra virgin) olive oil? Because it tastes like good olive oil. In fact, it's not much worse than the stuff I bought directly from an Umbrian farm last winter.

                                                                                                            For dressing and mounting and emuslifying, yes, by all means, have a peppery Tuscan/Sicilian/Californian and a fruity Ligurian or Greek (I like Ariston a lot) on hand.

                                                                                                            1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                              Forgot to mention Costco's Kirkland Tuscan EVOO (2009 harvest) at $12/LTR in NY. It's an IGP Toscana protected regional growth, dated, and excellent--balanced, fruity, and with just enough pepperiness for all uses.

                                                                                                        2. I have (mostly) enjoyed as much of this sometimes technical and often contentious discussion. Got a bit mind-numbing, but the overall has been interesting. BUT, all I could think of was what evoo to get for what purpose--assuming the $45 for 3/4l bottle is not a dailiy use item. So I posted a query on the General Topics board if anyone wants to add an opinion.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: alfairfax

                                                                                                            that link you posted is this thread!

                                                                                                            your intended link is this one: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7251...

                                                                                                          2. As a child my mom would give me Pompeian for an upset stomach, I always thought this oil tasted like olives, but then I don't have much experience with this. I am so sorry that they are on this list

                                                                                                              1. While this doesn't address the virginity issue, HAROLD McGEE weighs in on properties of evoo and other oils in cooking.
                                                                                                                Is It Time for an Oil Change in the Kitchen? From the NY Times

                                                                                                                1. I always wondered how WF was able to sell EVOO so cheaply.

                                                                                                                  1. Good Lord - what a brouhaha.

                                                                                                                    Bottom Line? Do you like the flavor of the oil you normally purchase? Yes? Continue to buy it. No? Stop buying it. Not rocket science.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Breezychow

                                                                                                                      well misinformation being portrayed to a consumer on a product is a majour faux pas. i think that is the biggest concern...

                                                                                                                      also, some people are looking for health benefits etc from these oils.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Breezychow

                                                                                                                        You are missing the point. If people are buying olive oil because it is a healthier choice, but are receiving an unhealthy alternative that is adulterated to taste like e.v. olive oil then that misinformation could in extreme cases be a detriment to the consumers health. It is completely unethical. Far more complicated than you are leading on.

                                                                                                                      2. More about the controversy in the LA Times yesterday:

                                                                                                                        "Researchers at UC Davis find problems again with purity of imported olive oil"

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                          you beat me to it - i just jumped on to post the article. so disheartening.

                                                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                            Glad to see my favorite olive oil came out on top. California Olive Ranch is an excellent oil and really doesn't cost that much more than the cheap stuff

                                                                                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                              Costco had it a month or so ago. I bought three bottles. After tasting, I thought I'd better stock up on it -- and of course, it was gone.

                                                                                                                              I usually buy the $11.99 Kirkland Tuscany Olive Oil which they get in every year (it's in a glass bottle). I make sure that I have enough of it to last between seasons, Seldom do they run out, but they did one year. I see now here in Winchester, VA, they have reduced it to $9.99, so Costco must be getting ready for a new season.

                                                                                                                              I wonder how the Kirkland Tuscan glass vintage year - now selling 2010 - compares in the survey. Particulary since I've been buying it for years now.

                                                                                                                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                Agreed. I thought I didn't like extra-virgin olive oil, but then I decided to try a good-quality brand before writing it off forever. Now I use California Olive Ranch oil in all kinds of stuff.

                                                                                                                            2. How does Zoe Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Amazon.com best seller) compare or rate?


                                                                                                                              1. Most people will not be able to distinguish the difference. It however is disturbing that I would be dinied the benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oils properties - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: chef les

                                                                                                                                  What ...... Rachel Ray is *not* a virgin ?!?!?!?!?

                                                                                                                                2. Terrific. I've been buying Bertolli, Filippo Berrio...maybe Carapelli on occasion. Can some one name some brands that aren't fraudulent and sold in Toronto? Though, this study was done in 2010...perhaps the companies in question have gotten their acts together by now.

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: BDD888

                                                                                                                                    I think this is best answered by a post on the Ontario board with "Toronto olive oil -- best unadulterated brands" in the headline. Good luck.

                                                                                                                                    These posts may be helpful to get started:

                                                                                                                                  2. Before I read any further, I have to point out that I got a good laugh out of the title-

                                                                                                                                    "Lab tests cast doubt on olive oil's virginity"
                                                                                                                                    Los Angeles Times

                                                                                                                                    1. organic express is a lie and paradiso pretty well is the same they all buy their stuff at the down town wholesale mart. im sorry this happen to you

                                                                                                                                      1. I read an article Food Renegade posted on this yesterday. In the Food Renegade piece, one test to see if your olive oil is extra-virgin is to put it in the refrigerator and see if it turns solid or cloudy. I have Kirkland branded Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (which I use often). I put it in the frige last night and it hasn't turned cloudy at all - I mean not one bit. Kirkland Organic is listed here as a brand found to be accurately labeled as Extra-Virgin, however, so I'm wondering if the frige test is a good test, or if maybe Kirkland gets its EVOO from multiple suppliers, some true, some not -?

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sheila_1

                                                                                                                                          Did you keep it in more than one or two days? Sometimes it takes that long. Of course, depending on the cold setting of your refrigerator.

                                                                                                                                          I've been buying Kirkland for some years now and have gone out of my way to buy-up the last of several bottles knowing I won't get anymore until next season; however, the year 2011 has proved to be just a little too peppery and harsh for me as my tastes are changing.

                                                                                                                                          At one time Costco did carry the California Olive Ranch brand mentioned above, but only saw it once. I liked it and went back to get more - all gone!

                                                                                                                                          The last bottle I bought was La Espanola Spanish EVOO at BJ's reasonable priced around $8 for 34 oz. I like it a lot, but who can speak to whether it is pure or not; only testing would say.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sheila_1

                                                                                                                                            You should be able to tell from taste and smell...

                                                                                                                                          2. I bought California Olive Ranch at Costco in 2010 at $8.39 for 1 liter. I've not seen it since. I loved it. But I do see it at Amazon but it is quite costly; ihttp://www.amazon.com/California-Olive-Ranch...

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                                              I'm in Massachusetts, and CA Olive Ranch is sold at Market Basket and Whole Foods. Market Basket is definitely going to be less expensive.

                                                                                                                                            2. The whole olive oil industry is a fraud anyway. All excess oils cause inflammation in the endothelial cells lining your arteries, causing heart disease, PAD, and strokes. Multiple studies have shown that while probably better than consuming hydrogenated oils people who consume olive oil as a replacement for other oils have the same progression of arterial plaques. The studies that showed the Mediterranean people has less heart disease were based on many lifestyle factors such as heavy vegetable consumption, family support networks, low stress lifestyles, and moderate alcohol consumption etc, not based on consuming olive oil. The Olive oil industry has seen an unprecedented boom in business based on a myth.

                                                                                                                                              17 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                This is interesting.

                                                                                                                                                Please provide a link or links to the "multiple studies have shown that while probably better than consuming hydrogenated oils people who consume olive oil as a replacement for other oils have the same progression of arterial plaques." They would be good to read. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                  Hi there, this link gives a good summary and has sources at the bottom: http://www.thevegetariansite.com/heal...
                                                                                                                                                  Another source is from a man named Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D just Google him, he has seminars etc on youtube that will blow your mind regarding the effect of all oils including olive oil the arteries. Hope that helps you get started!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                    So? The article is useful reminding us that olive oil is, after all, a fat, and not by itself capable of securing a healthier lifestyle. Other issues--diet, lifestyle, environment--count for more. Olive oil is associated with some very healthy diets and lifestyles, but is neither necessary nor sufficient for one. The industry claims are just that--some are true but ultimately without much significance (polyphenols are good for you, but are in all green plant based foods), Every claim for every food needs to be taken carefully--no one food will save us, nor kill us. Fraud? I doubt it. Misleading? In some cases, yes--something like when producers claim their lemons are "gluten free." But a glorious food, nonetheless, and if I do use fats, it's extra virgin oil, not butter or lard.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bob96

                                                                                                                                                      Well bob all you have to do is google "benefits of olive oil" and you will find thousands of claims about how heart healthy it is with very few mentioning how it contributes to heart disease just like all oils do. I agree that if you decide to pour gasoline on your endothelial cells then olive oil is better choice but is still gasoline. For people who are otherwise healthy sure a little olive oil probably won't hurt but this stuff is being sold as heart healthy with no warnings about vaso-constriction and inflammation associated with its use.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                      Welcome to Chowhound, Brahman, and thanks for posting.

                                                                                                                                                      Unfortunately, the vegetariansite.com article you've linked to contains lots of inaccurate info.

                                                                                                                                                      To start, the article draws conclusions that are not supported by the medical studies cited.

                                                                                                                                                      For example, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology study of November, 2000, was on the post-prandial effects of olive consumption, but done on only 10 people, so any conclusions are statistically insignificant. The study is 13 years old -- too old to be relevant as other more recent medical studies give a more accurate view of the science.

                                                                                                                                                      Also, any study that measures post-prandial consumption of olive oil is suspect because of an immediate blood lipid boost that skews meaningful results. That's the problem in using the Journal of the American College of Cardiology article from October, 2006, as well -- it measured post-prandial increases also. Accurate blood lipid levels come from testing over time, not immediately after a meal.

                                                                                                                                                      Another example: The Annals of Internal Medicine study, from September 2006, found that the polyphenols in olive oil did reduce cardiovascular lipids. Of course, the polyphenol effect of a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits and legumes will be in addition to any polyphenol effect from olive oil. That's a given. No one is recommending excessive olive oil consumption (what the website say is happening) nor that anyone get their total or even main source of polyphenols from olive oil.

                                                                                                                                                      Secondly, the tone of the vegetariansite.com article claims that a great deal of hype and myths surround olive oil. These claims seems alarmist and exaggerated.

                                                                                                                                                      The website says people believe olive oil will protect you from a heart attack, but my sense is that the American public, at least, don't believe that at all. What is believed is that consuming healthier oils is better for your cardiovascular system. No one believes olive oil will stave off a heart attack or that consuming excessive amounts will be of benefit -- that's ridiculous. But the vegetariansite article claims both those ideas are widely believed "hype" -- not so. The website goes on to dispel other myths and hype that really don't exist either.

                                                                                                                                                      I'm sorry, the vegetariansite.com article is not accurate. Esselstyn is a huge advocate of nutritional education to stave off heart disease, but presents no data on olive oil.

                                                                                                                                                      To be relevant and useful, medical citations need to be recent, not refuted by other studies, done on a large patient sample, independently funded, and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                        You are certainly entitled to your opinion on what research is valid what research is not, and whether the post-prandial increases are important or not (even though they increase angina and promote damaging inflammation), but many would disagree with your interpretation. Anyway, I think the point really is that sure you can enjoy your bag of popcorn with butter once in a while, but you don't see any claims that is it heart healthy. Olive oil isn't that much better than popcorn butter, but you see claims everywhere about how heart healthy it is -which is simply not true...that is where I have an issue.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                          A huge preponderance of data say olive oil can be part of a heart-healthy diet. It is the preponderance of current peer-reviewed medical data that is important, not hyperbolic, exaggerated claims by the website in your link.

                                                                                                                                                          No one is saying an excessive amount of olive oil is called for, or that olive oil will create better cardiovascular health independent of an overall healthy diet. The longitudinal data refute your claim that olive oil is inflammatory. Over and over again, year after year, the medical data reveal olive oil to be ANTI-inflammatory.

                                                                                                                                                          Here is a link to 47 articles specifically on olive oil and inflammation in the National Library of Medicine Database in the US. I used the search terms "olive oil" (which had to be in the title) and "inflammation," so the medical studies speak directly to the effects of olive oil on inflammation.


                                                                                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                            well why don't you show me one of these studies (that are not funded by the olive oil industry)? I have an open mind. Here is a <<5 year >>>study that shows the same heart damage in monkeys from olive oil as other oils: http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/8...

                                                                                                                                                            and another that shows the olive oil has the same coagulation effects as butter:

                                                                                                                                                            Please enlighten me with your unbiased research that refutes all these studies. And just because they are few years old doesn't mean they are wrong. Is a study showing how cigarettes cause cancer done in the 1950's any less valid today?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                              Please understand your argument is not with me.

                                                                                                                                                              Your argument is with the overwhelming amount of medical data that contradict what you say.

                                                                                                                                                              Re: your first link is on monkeys, not humans.

                                                                                                                                                              Re: your second link:
                                                                                                                                                              To repeat, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology study of November, 2000, was on the post-prandial effects of olive consumption, but done on only 10 people, so any conclusions are statistically insignificant. The study is 13 years old -- too old to be relevant as other more recent medical studies give a more accurate view of the science. Also, any study that measures post-prandial consumption of olive oil is suspect because of an immediate blood lipid boost that skews meaningful results.

                                                                                                                                                              Please go to the National Library of Medicine to cite medical studies. They contain medical studies from around the world. That will make the discussion here meaningful. Choose studies in the last five years, on humans, that have been corroborated, independently funded, etc., as mentioned earlier.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                What you are saying could be true, but how would anyone know since you have not shown any link to a study that contradicts my position? If you had provided any link to any study supporting your position rather than vague references then yes this would have been more meaningful and maybe you would have convinced me.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                                  I linked to 47 articles several posts ago. See above.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks I will look through those but I have already spotted some mice studies in there =). I really didn't mean for this issue to blow up so much..I will just continue along my path. My LDL level is at 60, my HDL is at around 100, and my C-reactive protein is 0.6, I interval train for several hours per day, my body fat is less than 10%. I follow the advice of doctors such Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (The China Study), and John H. Vogel, M.D. who all say that the #1 cause of death in America can be virtually eliminated by reducing the consumption of non essential oils, and eating a largely plant based diet (plenty of fruits and fresh vegetables) with no ADDED oil. It is working very well for me at 40 years old, I take no medication, am very healthy and fit, and I don't cost the country anything in healthcare. In stark contrast to 90% of the people I know my age who are already on liptor, have prediabetes, are obese and think (due to marketing) that adding Olive oil to their already high fat diet will somehow help them. That's all.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks, if you aren't using olive oil that means there is more for me :D

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                                                                      Since the marketing of the benefits of olive, consumption has increased hugely over the past 2 decades. I think there is plenty of olive oil for you. I never said I don't eat or like olive oil, I just said that I take exception to the way it is marketed as a heart healthy, when it really isn't especially for those (the majority) who are already obese, and on high fat diets.


                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                        You focus too intently on the marketing of health benefits. Many of us consume olive oil because it has an incredible flavor.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                                                                          I focus too intently for whom? For you? I love the flavor of olive oil too, and have small amounts of it as part of a healthy low oil lifestyle that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise etc. You might ask why is any of my business that half the population in the US is now obese, and that those people mistakenly consume olive oil thinking that it is helping them, when it isn't. The reason is that spiraling healthcare costs due to obesity, heart disease and diabetes is bankrupting the country, (to the tune of 300 billion PER year,) so yes it is my and your business what people eat.! Olive oil consumption is part of that equation, although admittedly not the only part of course.


                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Brahman

                                                                                                                                                            I think this is a straw man argument, or rather that nearly every food product is studied for its health benefits, funded by trade organizations that want publicity for their commodity. Olive oil is just one of a pack of foods (chocolate, blueberries, pomegranates, coffee, wine etc) that receive this attention. You'd be better off focusing on the industry financing of science and the atomistic approach to studying food (ingredient by ingredient) than harping on this particular food item.

                                                                                                                                                  3. Did you all see this related article in the NY TImes about the adulterated state of extra virgin olive oil?

                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Tehama

                                                                                                                                                      Yes. I thought the cartoon illustrations were clear and were entertaining in the way they described the massive deception going on. What the cartoon illustrations describe -- that olive oil sold as being from Italy is, first, often from Spain, and second, adulterated with soybean or other non-olive oils, has long been known. At last, the word is getting out in a big way about the deception. I'm not sure the new packaging laws in Italy are making much of a difference in terms of adulteration. Thanks for posting the link.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                        The Times has issued a correction. It made serious errors in the article, confusing the issue: false olive oil (ie, oils that are not 100% olive oil)) vs extra virgins that fail to pass basic sensory and chemical tests but are still olive oil. They also misstated Tom Mueller. A shambles of an article.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/pag...

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bob96

                                                                                                                                                          Good catch, bob96.

                                                                                                                                                          Correction text:
                                                                                                                                                          Olives that are used in substandard oil are typically milled days, weeks or even months after being picked — not “within hours.” The graphic conflated two dubious practices that can be found in parts of the olive oil industry. Some unscrupulous producers mix olive oil with soybean or other cheap oils, while others mix vegetable oils with beta carotene and chlorophyll to produce fake olive oil; the two practices are not always combined. Olive oil bottled in Italy and sold in the United States may be labeled “packed in Italy” or “imported from Italy” — not “produced in Italy” — even if the oil does not come from Italy. (However, the source countries are supposed to be listed on the label.) A 2010 study by researchers at the Olive Center 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. The study suggested that the substandard samples had been oxidized; had been adulterated with cheaper refined olive oil; or were of poor quality because they were made from damaged or overripe olives, or olives that had been improperly stored or processed — or some combination of these flaws.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                          Spain grows many more olives than Italy. There are not enough Italian olives for Italy's domestic use. Spanish olives are sent to Italy to produce olive oil identified as made in italy. Italian olive oil made from Italian olives will be so identified.

                                                                                                                                                          This is not a deceptive practice. It is no different in principle than Dijon mustard from France having been made with mustard seed grown in North America, which is usual.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                                                            Spain has exported olive oil to Italy for many, many years. It is then packaged in Italy, and labeled as "Product of Italy." The new packaging laws are supposed to prevent this sort of deception, but it's Italy, after all, where laws are often mere suggestions, and it's likely the deception to some degree will probably continue.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                              Hi, Maria: "Spain has exported olive oil to Italy for many, many years."

                                                                                                                                                              I should say! Monte Testaccio was built predominantly from amphora shards from Roman imports of olive oil from Spain (then called Baetica). Estimates of Roman consumption from this depot alone between 140 AD and 260 AD approach 6 BILLION liters.


                                                                                                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                If you don't trust Italian olive oil, and don't want mass-produced Spanish olive oil, I suggest you switch to Tunisian olive oil.


                                                                                                                                                                Why would anyone care if their olive oil were produced in Italy, anyway?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                                                                  Uh...only because of the many quality oils it produces, and the tradition thjat survives even the most blatant tricks played on it. Learn a little about regions and producers and varieties, and how to trust what you buy and how you taste, and you'll see. Italy has more varieties, more tastes, than any other producing country. It has also been beset by fraud (as has Spain and Greece and Turkey), and you always need to buy with some care, as you always do for most everything. There are many postings here about what stuff should taste like, what's worth it, and how to shop for it. Have a look. Tasting a Sicilian DOP at its best is worth more than few minutes attention. Believe me.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bob96

                                                                                                                                                                    Apparently you are interested in olive oil from Italian olives. Are you alleging that olive oil marked as made from olives grown in italy is sometimes fraudulent? How extensive do you believe this problem to be?

                                                                                                                                                        3. Love my Organic EVOO from Costco.

                                                                                                                                                          1. Kind of pisses me off....you see an "Organic" brand (Safeway's Organic's) and think... **It must be legit**....right? I guess not. Like, who thinks of even doing that to food products? More than likely they know better. I am grateful for the one's who care!

                                                                                                                                                            1. But WAIT!!

                                                                                                                                                              Turns out the IOC/USDA parameters are a little too strict. 20/38 American EVOOs, fresh-pressed by Aggies themselves, flunk the EVOO test. http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/resear...

                                                                                                                                                              To me, the standards seem akin to specifying what organoleptic chemical profiles all "fine wine" will have.

                                                                                                                                                              Also, you have, in the original study, only a handful of oils whose FFA and sterols were completely out of whack. Yelling "fraud" in every case where an oil trips one of the standards' criteria isn't fair or meaningful.

                                                                                                                                                              My own view is that, short of preventing adulteration, the standard-setters should just let us taste and decide based on recommendations and reviews--just as folks do with wine.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                Agree. I also cant really believe, after a life spent in Italian Brooklyn and NY, how easy it is here in North Cariotlina, to get quality extra virgin--at Marshall's, of all places, a DOP Val di Mazara Sicilian, at Costco an IDP Peza Koroneiki from Crete, a DOP Dauno from Foggia in Home Goods, all estate-producer bottled and current harvest, at really fair prices. And all delicious. Alas, the 2 Italian delis here, run by ex NJ, NY folks, offer poor choices. There's also a new varietal line @ Whole Foods that's promising--enjoying an excellent Sevilla monovarietal (hojiblanca). I'm lucky to have the chance to avoid the Mediterranean multi-nationals, as sound as many are, for a cabinet of 3 or 4 nice choices that do not break the bank. And good extra virgin, even very good, extra virgin, never has to.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bob96

                                                                                                                                                                  Costco sells Kirkland, I see it was on the list for LEGIT EVO's. I am guessing some Italian restaurants just do not know better.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Even though what I'm asking has been previously discussed on another thread - the gang here is focused on the quality of EVOO - so let me ask --

                                                                                                                                                                What's the thinking here on whether one can fry (and bake) with EVOO - with regard to both taste and any health effects?

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, you can do both. Heat degrades the flavor a lot more than the health effects. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your taste.