Updates and News: Fraud in the Olive Oil Marketplace

Posted by Olivia on Friday, February 15th, 2013

Updates and News: Fraud in the Olive Oil Marketplace

In recent years there’s been a growing amount of attention paid to fraud in the olive oil marketplace, thanks to olive oil experts like Tom Mueller (author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil) and an increasingly observant media.

Recent News Surrounding Food Fraud
One of author Tom Mueller’s most recent blog articles, Not All That Glitters Is Gold, cautions consumers that while the retail explosion of olive oil boutique shops may seem encouraging here in the United States, some are actually carrying low-quality oils that don’t meet standards of extra virgin status. The article has resulted in a lively conversation among Mueller’s readers, and even resulted in a follow-up article Mueller posted shortly after.

Earlier in January 2013, the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention released updates to its Food Fraud Database, which showed that olive oil is still at the top of the list when it comes to categories of foods that are mislabeled or misrepresented to the consumer. (The organization technically describes food fraud as “the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”)

A recent article in the Olive Oil Times talks about new measures in the European Union meant to keep olive oil fraud at bay, including annual targeted checks on olive oil, a new system of register tracking during the olive oil production and bottling process, and plans to update the chemical methods for analyzing olive oil.

Meanwhile, recent reports show that olive oil imports in the U.S. increased by 9 percent in 2011/2012, but are expected to drop from 294,000 tons to 285,000 tons in the 2012/2013 crop year.

Tips for Buying Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What can you do to ensure the olive oil you’re buying is truly extra virgin? Here are just a few tips we recommend:

·         Buy locally. Go straight to the source of the olive oil production, especially if you’re lucky enough to live close enough to an olive mill or local supplier. The more you can find out about the farmers that grew the olives or the production facility the oil came from, the more you’ll be able to learn about the quality of olive oil you’re buying.

·         Look for a harvest date.  The “Harvest Date” label tells you when the olive oil was produced—we typically recommend consuming olive oil within one year after it’s been opened. If there is a “Best By” label, look for one that won’t expire for another year or two from the harvest date.

·         Look for a certification label. Of course, your olive oil should clearly say “extra virgin” on its label and include a seal of certification. All of our extra virgin olive oils at The Olive Press have been certified by the California Olive Oil Council.

·         Buy bulk for an economical value. If you’re able to track down a local, certified extra virgin olive oil, consider buying in bulk. Many olive oil mills (including ours) offer their olive oil in bulk at reduced rates. Not to mention the added bonus of lowering our carbon footprint.

For even more tips on buying and selecting extra virgin olive oil, we recommend you read Tom Mueller’s page, How to Buy Great Olive Oil.

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