Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Aug

Is Your Olive Oil Really Olive Oil?

oliveoil3For thousands of years, humans have been picking, prizing, and pressing the fatty drupes found among the oblong leaves of the gnarled, twisted olive tree into rich, green-gold extra virgin olive oil. And for almost as many thousands of years, humans have been coming up with ways to fake it, to pass off cheaper, less delicious, less nutritious oils as the real thing. The earliest known written mention of olive oil – from Syria, 24 BC – describes how court-appointed inspectors would tour olive oil processing facilities to ensure quality, purity, and the absence of fraud. In ancient Rome, the vessels containing olive oil bore detailed information about the contents, including varietal of fruit used, place of origin, name of producer, the weight and quality of the oil, the name of the importer, plus the name of the official who inspected it and confirmed the previously mentioned data. Let’s just say they really, really liked their olive oil, and that olive oil adulteration has always been an issue.

It continues today, of course, and studies are bearing out the fact that extra virgin olive oil is often adulterated with cheaper, more refined, deodorized olive oils, oils from olives deemed unfit for human consumption, and/or random nut, seed, and vegetable oils spiked with chlorophyll and beta-carotene to replicate the authentic color. An Australian study found that over half the supermarket EVOO was anything but, even the supposedly legit stuff from the Mediterranean countries; New Zealand researchers had similar results with Mediterranean imports into their country. Last year, a University of California at Davis study (PDF) found that 69% of imported extra virgin olive oils failed to meet international standards, while 90% of California EVOO tested passed (the study was partially financed by major California olive oil producers, and producers of some of the failed imports are crying foul). Similar adulteration is taking place in China, where imported olive oil is mixed with cheap seed oils. In 2007, the New Yorker published a harrowing account of widespread and longstanding fraud in the Italian olive oil industry (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks”), and more recently, a study found that four out of five Italian olive oils were “debased.”

I’ve spent the last few years recommending that you eat extra virgin olive oil, and now it appears as if the fraud is pervasive enough to throw everything you thought you knew into a state of confusion. So what are you supposed to do? How do you know if your olive oil is actually olive oil?

The Fridge Test

By now, you’ve probably all heard about it: to test the legitimacy of a supposed olive oil, stick it in the fridge for a day or two. If it begins to solidify, you’ve got yourself a bottle of true extra virgin olive oil. Does it hold true?

Kinda.

Pure monounsaturated fat, also known as oleic acid, solidifies at 39 degrees F. Since olive oil is primarily oleic acid (about 70-85 percent, generally), sticking a bottle of real olive oil in the fridge should elicit solidification. The original olive oil adulterants, sunflower oil and safflower oil, were mostly polyunsaturated, so adulterating olive oil used to be easy to spot. Now, with high-oleic sunflower oil, high-oleic safflower oil, and high-oleic canola oil on the scene, adulterated olive oil can still solidify in the fridge. Thus, the fridge test is still a necessary, but not sufficient, test for the legitimacy of your extra virgin olive oil. It’s really a test for the degree of monounsaturation in the oils. It’s important (toss any oils that fail the test), but it’s not the full story.

The Taste Test

Good olive oil is often bitter, pungent, spicy, and slightly abrasive. It’s not always smooth and easy going. In fact, the “off-notes,” the intense flavors that make the uninitiated screw up their face actually indicate the presence of high levels of polyphenols, those antioxidant plant compounds which make olive oil so good for you. If the olive oil you taste burns the back of your throat and tastes funny to you, chances are you’ve been using and are used to adulterated (or at least non-virgin) oil.

To my knowledge, olive oil adulteration hasn’t progressed to the point where scammers are able to simulate the flavor of true EVOO. If they were to do it, I’d imagine they’d have to add polyphenols or olive extracts to the vegetable oils, and that can’t be cheap. And even if they did add olive extracts and synthetic polyphenols, it’d be better than having none at all.

Does It Matter?

Aside from being cheated out of your money for a disgustingly disappointing mix of soybean and canola oils, can any real health issues arise from consuming adulterated olive oils?

There are allergy concerns, of course, if the adulterant contains an allergen, like peanut oil. Owing to the similarity of its fatty acids to olive oil’s, hazelnut oil is another popular adulterant as well as a fairly common allergen, and one study even showed that people with hazelnut allergies could identify olive oil spiked with hazelnut oil because they suffered symptoms after eating it.

Another health issue that can arise from using adulterated olive oil is the one caused by excessive intake of omega-6 fats from the soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola, or any other cheap high-PUFA oil being added: generation of inflammatory eicosanoids, systemic inflammation, and oxidized blood lipids. Luckily, the fridge test is sufficient to ferret out PUFA-rich “olive oil” and prevent this from harming you.

Depending on the source and age of the adulterants (year old soybean oil, five month canola, etc), the once robust polyphenol profile of the starter extra virgin olive oil will have been severely diluted. And since the healthful, anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil can mostly be attributed to the polyphenols, olive oil adulterated with inferior, polyphenol-less oils will be less stable, more rancid, and more prone to oxidation. Oxidized oils are not very good for us; here’s why.

I’d say it does matter, and not just because of taste (as if “taste” isn’t reason enough). Here are my roughly recommended guidelines for choosing a good, real EVOO:

My best results have come with domestics – wherever I am. My favorite olive oil here in California is a California olive oil. The best Italian olive oil I ever had was in Italy. Same for Spanish olive oil. In all those studies referenced above, domestics seemed to win out. The NZ and Australian studies found that local oils bested the imports, just as the California study found that the top oils were from California. I’d imagine Italians like Italian olive oil and Spaniards like Spanish olive oil and so on and so forth because they’re not getting the imported, adulterated dregs.

You might have to spend a little money. Sure, I’ve made some good, affordable finds at Trader Joe’s in my day (including a $15 a liter bottle of spicy, unfiltered to the point of clogging the spout, lime green EVOO from Italy that appeared on the shelves for a month or two last year only to disappear before I could grab another bottle), but generally, I’ve gotten what I’ve paid for.

Do some tastings. Look for specialty shops or farmer’s market stands that allow and even encourage tastings of their olive oils. Take at least an ounce (the quarter teaspoon some places try to offer is way too meager to get an accurate reading), slurp it up, and swirl it around in your mouth like you’re trying to make a saliva-EVOO emulsification. Be obnoxious about it, even. But as you swallow the oil, relax and be ready to note the peppery polyphenol kick at the end, usually experienced at the back of your throat. Good EVOO should linger pleasantly in the mouth, even after it’s been swallowed.

Do the fridge test. Even though it won’t prove that your oil is pure, you’ll at least know that your EVOO wasn’t cut with PUFA-rich oils.

Avoid clear bottles. Although I’ve bought some fantastic olive oil from dedicated small-time producers that was stored in random glass jars, I usually opt for EVOO that comes in dark bottles or stainless steel containers. First reason being, light exposure oxidizes olive oil and degrades the polyphenol content. Second reason, most quality olive oil producers care about their product enough to ship it in suitable vessels.

Buy a winner. I always keep up with the latest winners of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition. Whenever I’ve tried one from the list of winners, I haven’t been disappointed. Here are some other lauded competitions.

Talk to people who know good olive oil. Talk to olive farmers at the farmers’ market who grow and pick and press and sell the stuff, talk to the mustachioed olive oil aficionado who owns the olive oil shop that you’ve never stopped in to see, talk to your friends who know about this sort of thing and splurge on olive oil all the time.

Ultimately, absent a team of sensory experts, access to gas chromatography equipment, and the ability to astrally project your soul backward through time to the time and place of the oil’s production, there’s no one way to tell, no grand, all knowing test. The closer you are to the proximate producer of the oil (buy “close to the mill”), the fewer times it changes hands before reaching yours, the “feeling” you get from sniffing the herbaceous fragrance, tasting the piquant fruitiness, the enjoyment you derive from it – this is how you determine the worth of your oil. It’s more art than science.

Thanks for reading, folks. Be sure to drop a link or reference to your personal favorite (or favorites) extra virgin olive oil, preferably one that’s widely available or available online, as well as your tips for finding a good brand.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I really enjoy dousing my salad with ‘olive oil.’ To think that I might be drinking the remaining lemon juice with a half cup of canola oil makes me kind of sick…

    Isn’t this illegal or something?

    Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I mean.. shouldn’t companies be put out of business if they’re caught being blatantly dishonest to their customers? Maybe we should start a watchdog website to cripple those greedy bastards. Provide me a list of the perps and I’ll never give them another dime.

      Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Yes it is illegal, but mostly they aren’t caught because the industry is corrupt and especially in Italy controlled by the Mafia. Best thing you can do is follow the recommendations above.

        Dave wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • hi bruno – yes they should but do you realize that we have just experienced the most massive, and literally tsunami-like bank scandal in history (libor) and basically no one of any consequence is going down for it (or will…) now will anything of consequence change how the banks operate.

        how high do you think olive oil purity is on regulators lists? (even assuming that there were honest regulators – which there are not…)

        just sayin’

        ravi wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • There is already a website dedicated to this:
        http://www.truthinoliveoil.com it is hosted by the author of “Extra Virginity” a book about the olive oil industry and the corruption and scandal in that industry.

        Jeff wrote on August 14th, 2012
        • Jeff, thank you for the link. I heard this on NPR and have been looking for the web,..oh and thank you Mark Sisson for the great article. I wish olive oil tastes as good on my fingers as it does on a crusty hard baguette.

          andre Chimene wrote on August 15th, 2012
        • If there is an angle to play, big food invariably plays it. That’s why this site is so vital. Thanks for that link.

          Cheryl Boswell wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • We live in a corrupt society!

        On the fridge test: this may fool you! A lady commented on one of my olive oil blog posts and said that her homemade olive oil fails the fridge test. It remains liquid even though she presses the polices that she grows herself!

        I think taste is the best test. And know your grower.

        Primal Toad wrote on August 15th, 2012
        • Perhaps her fridge is not cold enough?

          Nan wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • Or she was a plant from the OO lobby

          J wrote on January 28th, 2013
  2. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the tinted bottle offerings at Trader Joe’s and word on the street has it that their oils are supposed to be the uncut, real thing. All of the best oils I have had have always been small batch, locally produced oils. When I lived in CA, there was no shortage of great, locally produced stuff.

    fritzy wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I’m curious if anyone knows anything about the refined brands (their purity, and any “household tests.”) We use the “olive oil” (non-extra virgin) from Trader Joe’s for making mayonnaise. Wondering if the reason fraud is prevalent in EVOO is because of the higher price and refined stuff is (relatively) safe?

      Kris wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I have trader joe’s olive oil too! I tend to agree with buying local tho… I try california olive oil once and it was oh so tasty!!

      Gift clumsywarrior wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • What I learned from the http://www.truthinoliveoil.com was that California highly regulates the olive oil from Ca. It is the best bet for local in the US. I switched from Trader Joes others to the California Estate brand there.

        andre Chimene wrote on August 15th, 2012
  3. Oh lordy, something else to worry about…I’ve totally converted to coconut oil but I do like a little olive oil on my salads. Thanks for the tips.

    Alison Golden wrote on August 14th, 2012
  4. Very good to know! Doing the test on mine!

    Erica Reinhart wrote on August 14th, 2012
  5. This month’s Consumer Reports has an article about extra virgin olive oil and rates around 26 brands. Some of them sound really awful (musty from mold, for instance). Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods’ 365 brand were winners.

    Alice wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • 365 brand fails the fridge test.

      Ben wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Really, wow, I’m surprised. Thanks for letting us know. I just discovered that my unbrand Italian oil which I assumed would be junk after reading this post has a total polyphenol kick when tasted.

        Alice wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Really? My Whole Foods 365 passes the fridge test. My bottle says it’s from California. Maybe there are different ones?

        lindsay wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • make sure your fridge is cold enough (40° or below for food safety, 39° or below for the solidity test)

        yoolieboolie wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • My 365 brand bottle passed the Fridge test.

        John wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • I think that failing the fridge test doesn’t automatically mean your oil is adulterated. As someone else mentioned, your fridge might not be cold enough. Also, I’ve been doing some reading. It turns out that the fatty acid composition of olive oil can vary quite a lot depending upon the growing conditions and even the weather. I think the taste test is the most reliable. If it’s extra virgin, it should be strong in flavor, a little spicy and even grassy in flavor. I wouldn’t throw out good tasting olive oil just because it didn’t solidify in the fridge.

        Nancy wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • First, a correction: neither Whole Foods 365, nor REGULAR Trader Joe’s EVOO, came out on top of the Consumer Reports test (which wasn’t really a good test to begin with, because they really almost entirely purchased supermarket brands). The winners were McEvoy Ranch and Trader Joe’s California Estate.

      Second, the fridge test is not only sufficient, it’s not necessary, and indeed can be quite misleading: Fake or low-quality oils can pass, and real EVOO can fail. See this explanation from Australian olive oil expert Richard Gawel:
      http://www.aromadictionary.com/EVOO_blog/?p=550

      Third, to the person who asked about regular “olive oil:” you don’t want that junk. It’s been stripped of its polyphenols and most other bioactive components, and it is sometimes contaminated with solvent residues.

      If you are looking for authentic, high-quality EVOO, I highly recommend the database of producers and sources of premium extra-virgin olive oil assembled by Tom Mueller, author of “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil”:
      http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil/best-olive-oils/

      Michael wrote on August 14th, 2012
  6. For anyone in Texas, Texas Olive Ranch makes some good stuff that’s the real deal. It’s pretty spicy and grassy like Mark was talking about, so it takes some getting used to if, like me, you’ve only had the supermarket stuff. I’ve met the owner out at farmer’s markets and he’ll be happy to tell you all about his orchards (not a paid shill, I just like the product).

    Brad wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Excellent, olive oil, though pricey!

      Grace wrote on August 15th, 2012
  7. I’ve had good luck with Costco Organic Olive Oil.
    Chase

    Anon wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Your parents lacked creativity if “Debt Free Teen” is the best they could do.

      Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • I’m thrilled by the moniker, if we had more who followed that philosphy the country would be in a better place (just as if we had more who ate primal).

        Colleen wrote on August 14th, 2012
        • Word.

          spayne wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Per Mark, at the very top of the comment board:

      “Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.”

      Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • +1

      yoolieboolie wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • oh geez, really? you gotta pocj on the kids name? do you need a nap or something?

      yoolieboolie wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • *pick* (derp derp derp)

      enough of this, I’m going camping.

      yoolieboolie wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Really? Are you going to jump on everyone else who does not use a variation of their real name?

      Nicole wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Pardon, I have a lot of respect for Mark and this website. He provides priceless knowledge for us every day without asking for anything in return. Oh wait, nevermind, that’s right. He asks for ONE and ONLY ONE thing in return for allowing us this open forum to share and discuss. To completely blow off this ONE request is blatantly disrespectful.

        That message from Mark that I posted above appears at the bottom of EVERY SINGLE article on this website – yeah, I’m sure it’s not very important to him.

        Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • And this especially on an article about rules and guidelines being blown off for the sake of profit. Nice hypocrisy, guys!

        Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • E-mails are required to post. Let the man who runs the website worry about enforcement.

      I also think Mark won’t use name-calling as a tactic.

      Nicole wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • You’re probably right, but I’m not Mark, I’m Norton Antivirus Free Update dot Com

        Bruno wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Debt Free Teen looks great. I just gave the link to my high school senior.

      Jenny wrote on August 15th, 2012
    • Kirkland Organic (not the regular) EVOO is one of the reasons we keep our Costco membership. UC Davis’s Olive Center did a test a couple years ago that’s worth checking out

      http://addictedtocostco.com/2010/07/29/kirkland-signature-extra-virgin-olive-oil-best-imported-oil/

      Conviventia wrote on August 16th, 2012
  8. I was so mad that I put my olive oil from Aldi’s in the fridge and it was too hard to pour out of the bottle. I thought I would keep it from going rancid. Now I’m very happy.

    Sarah wrote on August 14th, 2012
  9. If you live near Frederick, MD check out Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium (L.O.V.E.). No, the olives are not grown locally, but it is high quality stuff. Yes, they also fear other fats,, so they tend to be super pumped about their butter flavored EVOO. They have numerous varietals from Spain, Italy, Chile, and elsewhere, as well as tons of flavors. It’s all 100% olive oil, so no worries.

    Josh wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Me Me, I’m close to Frederick, MD. Thanks a bunch for the tip, I will check them out. Any other gems nearby?

      Kim wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Cafe Nola (also downtown) uses all local ingredients and pastured eggs. Their breakfast are primal, just skip the toast. I’ll have to check around more next time I visit my sister. I know many of the restaurants (firestones, Isabellas, the tasting room) use local ingreidents. Pick a good place downtown and you’ll be able to find something primal.

        Josh wrote on August 14th, 2012
  10. I had that Trader Joes Olive Oil that was sold for a limited time last year as well. Same happened to me, went back for more and it was gone, still look for it to come back every week when I stop by TJs. It was awesome, cloudy, milky looking and pungent. Every oil I have now I compare to that.

    Chad wrote on August 14th, 2012
  11. I had always thought that the labeling would indicate whether the oil was pure olive or not…. I can’t say I’m surprised, but it’s getting ridiculous when even olive oil is getting compromised. For the past while, I’ve been purchasing any imported oils from specialty shops – Zingerman’s and the like. Cheap it ain’t, but at least I know I get a quality product.

    Greta wrote on August 14th, 2012
  12. I hear Popeye knows his Olive Oil :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Biblically, even!

      Jeremy wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Oops — he does know his Olive Oyl, though.

      Diane wrote on August 14th, 2012
  13. I’m interested in hearing how you all maintain the freshness of the oil? I keep it in the fridge and then liquify at room temp before using — then put back in fridge.

    I heard an olive oil loving doc mention that some people squeeze the contents of a vitamin e capsule into the bottle but he prefers to squeeze a capsule of co-q10. He said it makes the oil red but preserves it quite well. Thoughts?

    Alexandra wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Should be OK in a dark, cool pantry or cupboard, as long as its not sitting around for months and months. Another option would be to buy a small wine fridge (some decent ones for under $250) to keep items cool but not cold. Great for dry-cured meats, cheeses, perishable oils, root vegetables, etc.

      MarkA wrote on August 14th, 2012
  14. If someone comes up with a list of brands that are okay in the states, that would be awesome!

    Tasha wrote on August 14th, 2012
  15. I’ve been getting the Costco EVOO First Cold Pressed…It’s going in the fridge for a test while I go to my Farmers Market today and get some good stuff! I don’t have a good feeling about the ‘ol Kirkland brand. It has to be lousy doesn’t it? It’s dirt cheap.

    Nocona wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Please let us know the results, I use the stuff myself

      Max Ungar wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Consumers Reports recently rated olive oils and liked the Kirkland brand.

      BonzoGal wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • My Costco EVOO definitely hardens in the fridge. I make homemade vinaigrette all the time and put the leftovers in the fridge, and I always have to remember to take it out early so it can un-solidify.

      KimInGA wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Costco would be World Market as well I believe. I love my World Market EVOO. It comes in a Can and the price is awesome. It keeps well in the can (out of sunlight) for quite a while and has a wonderful, rich flavor. I haven’t tested it in the fridge and don’t really care how thick it gets cold. Like I said, it tastes great.

      carolmcdonald wrote on August 19th, 2012
  16. My wife just said that the Costco EVOO hardens when she makes salad dressings and put in the fridge for a day or two. I still don’t believe it’s the good stuff. A 2-pack is $20 for a gallon.

    Nocona wrote on August 14th, 2012
  17. Is olive oil primal? Nope.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Derek wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • It’s not? Pretty sure there are a lot of people under the impression that it IS primal.

      So no, NOT ’nuff said. Why do you think it’s not primal?

      Jodis wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I’m certain grok didn’t extract oil from coconuts, yet I haven’t heard one person say coconut oil isn’t primal. Same goes for olive oil. Olive oil is absolutely primal.

      Josh wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Olive oil is primal. If you press olives, you get oil in one step. Grok could do it too. The same goes for coconut oil. The stuff is naturally oily.
        If you press corn, you don’t get oil, unless you do a whole lot more processing.

        Nancy wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Maybe Grok’s cousins lived on Maui? Cracking open a coconut on a rock is as primal as you can get

        Jeff wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Neither are computers.

      Dan wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • You eat computers?

        Kevin Hughes wrote on August 15th, 2012
  18. Here’s an interesting post about the “fridge test”:

    http://primaltoad.com/olive-oil/

    Tl;dr version — guy who makes his own oil, by his own hands, puts it in the fridge 12 hours, and it didn’t get solid. No word on whether it eventually did, but what it says to me is that the fridge test may be even less useful than we think.

    (And yeah, it’s the internet, and he could be lying, but I don’t quite know what the point of that would be.)

    Anyway, I’ve had olive oil from very good, very reputable vendors take days to “set up”. I honestly go with my nose and my source anymore. If I don’t know where it came from, or if it doesn’t kick me in the mouth when I try it, I assume it’s adulterated and move on.

    Steph wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I’m reading this late as usual because of the time difference. We’re in Adelaide, Australia and press our own olive oil. I’ve just put some in the fridge and I’ll let you know later whether it solidifies.

      Tania wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Forgot to say, that I don’t think ours goes solid either which is why I’m keen to see for sure. There could be differences across varieties. We grow Verdale olives, one of the less common types because they are low yielding. On the other hand they make delicious oil.

        Tania wrote on August 14th, 2012
        • The oil has been in the fridge for 6 hours now and shows no signs of solidifying. Mark did say leave it in the fridge a day or 2 so I’ll do that.

          Tania wrote on August 14th, 2012
        • Ok, it took 24 hours but it did solidify in the end. It’s been an interesting post. Thanks Mark.

          Tania wrote on August 15th, 2012
  19. If any of you live in Arizona, I highly recommend a trip to the Queen Creek Olive Mill. Maytag Blue Cheese stuffed Olives may not be primal, but they’re incredibly delicious. They also have lots of crazy (Blood Orange?!) flavor infused olive oils.
    Now I got a hankerin’ & I’m 1700 miles away. harrrrumph!

    VorJoshigan wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I live in NW Phoenix and am definitely going to check that out next time I’m in the east valley. Thanks!:)

      Chris wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • We’ve been buying this from WF and a couple of times found at Farmer’s Market (Ahwatukee). Recently I tried the fridge test, it did not solidify. May try again, maybe fridge wasn’t cold enough.

      Carlos wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • They taste even better after soaking in Gin and a tiny bit of vermouth . . . .

      Duncan wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Newman’s got me on that one not so long ago.

        Robert wrote on August 17th, 2012
  20. Always read the label. The other day I almost used some of “Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing”. Turns out it is only olive-oil flavoured. The “All Natural Ingredients” are:

    Olive Oil Blend (Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil), Water, Red Wine Vinegar, Onion, Spices, Salt, Garlic, Lemon Juice and Distilled Vinegar

    Disappointed much? Obviously, the answer is just to buy olive oil and vinegar and ‘do it yourself’.

    Scott UK wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I picked up a glasslock container with a real snap on spout so I could just fill 1/2 way with EVOO and 1/2 way with vinegar and be done. Shake shake and I’ve got salad dressing. Its clear glass so I keep it (and so the olive oil) away from light as best I can.

      I just get hopping mad that I can no longer trust anything packaged!

      CJ wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Agreed! I’ve seen “olive oil” mayonnaise at the health food store that turned out to have both olive and canola oils. There was just enough olive oil in there to flavor it.

      BonzoGal wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • In the Newman example, the first ingredient was still olive oil, so I don’t really think it was misrepresentation.

        DarcieG wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • All the “olive oil” mayonnaise in the stores is similar, mostly soy or canola with a bit of olive added for flavor.

      jpatti wrote on October 5th, 2012
  21. Does anyone grow their own olives? Any recommendations on where to get seedlings and a press?

    rob wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • not sure you have enough time on the planet to grow your own – in the med countries, grandfathers planted new seedlings as gifts to the 2nd and 3rd generation down – these buggers grow slooooooly – unless you can nab an acre or two of already mature trees (not to mention in the right climate) – yer stuck with the grocery store.

      ravi wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • We have seventeen trees planted along our back and side fence. We usually get around 40 litres of oil because our variety is low yielding. We’ve got Verdale. I’d recommend the Koroneiki variety for high yields but it’s tiny and not good for pickling. As for pressing your own, it’s not possible really. You need massive presses. Imagine a huge factory full of equipment. What backyarders tend to do is take their olives somewhere close to be pressed. Sometimes family groups pool together. We take ours to George at the Fleurieu Peninsular Press. Might be a bit of a journey for some of you, it’s in South Australia.

      Tania wrote on August 14th, 2012
  22. How timely, just was in an olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting store in Breckenridge, Co yesterday with my family! We almost convulsed with joy at how amazing everything tasted, and I scored a bottle of white coconut balsamic (you cannot even imagine how amazing it is) and a mushroom sage olive oil. It was nice knowing that the product was much higher quality than what I can find in the grocery stores. Because I use olive oil more sparingly than coconut oil, ghee, etc I think from now on I’m only going to be these higher quality olive oils.

    Jenny wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • White coconut balsamic… I must find this somehow.

      Nicole wrote on August 14th, 2012
      • Nicole, the place is called Olive Fusion and is in Breckenridge and Silverthorne. I’m sure they would ship to you and you will not regret it, I promise! It’s out of this world!

        Jenny wrote on August 15th, 2012
  23. Any recommendations for good brands in Canada? Sadly, no domestic ones here in the great white north…

    Jennifer wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I love Sciabica, a family owned outfit in California. It’s not organic (the certification was too cumbersome for such a small outfit) but they don’t spray.

      Foxylibrarian wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • There are a number of Canadian suppliers (retail) listed here. I am in Vancouver and get great oil from Vancouver Olive Oil Company.

      http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil/best-olive-oils

      Kevin Hughes wrote on August 15th, 2012
  24. Didn’t you guys read the article? No brands. You gotta buy close to the source, do the fridge test, etc. You can’t trust a brand to be the same quality every time either.

    By the way, honey has the same problem as olive oil. A lot of it is fake, not honey at all.

    Diane wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Not everyone can buy close to the source. Sometimes a brand is the best one can financially do, so it would be good to know what evil brands are the least evil.

      Nicole wrote on August 14th, 2012
  25. Since reading your last post on olive oils I’ve been going for the top shelf, small and spendy bottles (CA) than the larger, cheaper bottom shelf stuff (Italy) at my local Food CoOp. I was amazed at the flavor, and much happier with the performance.

    I had worried about how long those bottles were sitting in my counter since I didn’t use it for every-flippin thing anymore. Now I’m content to only have it on hand sometimes and really enjoy the quality of it.

    Also appreciate the contest winners link. Very cool! Thanks, Mark :)

    yoolieboolie wrote on August 14th, 2012
  26. I did the ‘fridge’ test and Newman’s passed, California Olive passed, and a bottle of ‘Savor’ from a small vendor at my local farmer’s market failed. I specifically asked her if it was 100% unfiltered, first cold press, EVOO, and she, the owner, said it was. Makes me question the validity of the test.

    MyFirstNameIsPaul wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Too bad life isn’t like that Ricky Gervais movie where everyone has to tell the truth:
      You: Is this 100% cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil?
      Vendor: No, I cut it 50/50 with Wesson canola oil so I can make more money.

      MarkA wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • Read the label, you just think it passed:

      All Natural Ingredients:
      Ingredients: Olive Oil Blend (Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil), Water, Red Wine Vinegar, Onion, Spices, Salt, Garlic, Lemon Juice and Distilled Vinegar

      Not Kosher

      http://www.newmansown.com/product_detail.aspx?productid=1

      Mike H wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • The “fridge test” isn’t valid, as I’ve mentioned before: see this explanation from Australian olive oil expert Richard Gawel:
      http://www.aromadictionary.com/EVOO_blog/?p=550

      Confirming this, Newman’s Own failed the laboratory testing performed by the University of California at Davis’ Olive Center:
      http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/news-events/news/files/olive%20oil%20final%20071410%20.pdf

      Michael wrote on August 16th, 2012
  27. How timely! I recently bought a salad dressing at a health food store because I thought the ingredients were so good. Olive oil was the only oil listed in the ingredient list along with some other items I am perfectly ok with consuming (sesame seeds, aminos, ect.) I put it in the fridge and my husband and I were so puzzled that the oil separated and then solidified at the top. After years of buying Whishbone and other such junk we had never seen a salad dressing do that. At least I know I got the good stuff!

    Audrey wrote on August 14th, 2012
  28. Yes, I have a favorite EVOO. Here’s the link:

    http://www.kilerridge.com/Kiler_Ridge/Home.html

    I’ve been helping with the harvest for a few years now, so I KNOW where my olive oil comes from. It’s also a blast.

    bill wrote on August 14th, 2012
  29. In Canada, I can vouch for the Costco Kirkland Organic EVVO sold in 1.5L bottles.
    It is pointless to put it in the fridge, unless you want to have a block of Extra Virgin Olive Butter, and burns like a shot of whisky on its way down and makes kermit the frog look like he’s sporting on off yellow tint.

    That said, the non-organic Kirkland brand is smooth as water, doesnt solidify very much, and has a pale green hint of colour.

    It may not be the best stuff out there, but for folks on a budget, i dont think youre going to do much better, especially at the price point. But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn in the future that its actually cut with crap oils too.

    Want to know more? check out http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/

    Keefe Bella wrote on August 14th, 2012
  30. I have given up on olive oil. I didn’t grow up with it and don’t use it often so even if I could trust some brand, I fear it would go rancid before I used it up.

    As far as I know, there is no local olive oil and it just seems like too much energy and time would be needed to track down the good stuff.

    Sharon wrote on August 14th, 2012
  31. I’ve had pretty good success with Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Sully wrote on August 14th, 2012
  32. Any info on organic olive oil vs non-organic ?

    Is there a significant difference between the two ?

    sjmusic2 wrote on August 14th, 2012
  33. Great article! There is a typo though- the first mention of olive oil was in 2400 BC rather than 24 BC.

    Anthony Duncan wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • 2400 BC? In Sumer?

      garymar wrote on August 15th, 2012
  34. Not entirely on-topic, but thought I should mention a yummy trick I learned this weekend: I peeled a whole head of garlic cloves, put in a saute pan and covered them with EVOO (Olave Brand, from Whole Foods). Heated for about 45 minutes, until the cloves were toasty brown on the outside. Pureed the cloves with some basil leaves to make a spread to put on some grilled salmon (YUM), but now I’ve got about 2 cups of the most delicious garlic olive oil!

    For what its worth, the oil does solidify in the fridge; as far as I’m concerned, its so expensive, it had better be the real thing!!

    Defrog wrote on August 14th, 2012
  35. In Exodus 30:24 the Hebrews used a hin of olive oil to make ‘a holy anointing oil’. The book of Exodus is dated by most experts to have taken place at about the 13th century B.C…..A LONG time before the written mention you’ve described from Syria. But hey, I just drove your point home even more!!

    Keep up the great work!

    Ashley wrote on August 14th, 2012
  36. The best EVOO I’ve had is from Kasandrinos Imports- they bring it to the US directly from Greece, pure and unadulterated. My friend’s family owns the company and the farms. It’s really amazing oil!!

    http://www.kasandrinos.com

    Diane wrote on August 14th, 2012
  37. I appreciate the article, and I’ve been hoping to see something about this because I only recently heard about this problem; but you’re not really doing much to tell us how to find it, are you?

    I mean, if the fridge test is inconclusive, and the taste test requires you to have had the “real thing” for comparison, and if we live in a region where olive trees don’t grow (like where I live) which rules out local produce, how do I find which shelf-brand to buy? :/

    Praxis wrote on August 14th, 2012
    • I think maybe the point was that residents of the US in general may be better off buying California olive oil (since there’s no such thing as local olive oil in Wyoming or Wisconsin) than oil from Spain, Italy, or Greece. In many cases, imported olive oils are sold in bulk to companies that just label and bottle, so there’s more possibility of oil being diluted with other non-olive oils. If you live in Italy or Spain, stick with olive oil made in your own country since it’s more likely that the fraud is taking place with stuff that’s being exported.

      MarkA wrote on August 14th, 2012
  38. If anyone is interested in reading more about the olive oil subject –there is a great book written by Tom Mueller called, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil”. He gives a history of olive oil and explains many traditions as well as fradulent practices in his book. He also explains the high standards of true olive oil and gives some preferable brands.

    eva wrote on August 14th, 2012
  39. Are organic versions a good option? Or are they tainted as well?

    Teera wrote on August 14th, 2012
  40. Anyone know of a good source in the UK?

    I’ve just checked my huge Filippo Berrio, and it’s not good :(

    Dave wrote on August 14th, 2012

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