Weekly Tip: Help When Buying Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  “You gotta have good olive oil. You should have a cooking olive oil and you should have a finishing olive oil, like an extra-virgin olive oil.” ~Emeril Lagasse, Chef

  Extra Virgin Olive Oil Quality Issues

In Tom Mueller’s book entitled, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” he says that extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade of virgin oil.  “Virgin oil means that it’s been produced with mechanical means – -with physical crushing, and either spinning out the oil or pressing it.  You can’t use chemistry and you can’t use high heat to produce virgin oil.”

The title of his book points to the issues surrounding extra virgin olive oil.

Green olives

The problem, in a nutshell, is that there are no firm quality standards that are adhered to by all olive oil producers. Therefore, the oil that you pay a premium price for may not be 100% extra virgin oil.

In the spring of this year, Dan Flynn, executive director of the Olive Center at the University of California, indicated that in 69% of imported olive oil samples and 10% of California samples the following problems existed:

  • A lack of fruitiness in the oil
  • Rancidity was found in the oil
  • 15 Samples were mixed with canola oil
  • Oxidation and chemical processing were detected

To help combat some of these issues, quality certification programs, such as the USDA’s, Quality Monitoring Program and the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) were formed over a year ago.

However, quality issues still exist. So to protect yourself and make the most informed purchases, the following should be obtained according to Fran Gage’s article entitled, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Buying Guide.

  • The words, “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” should be on the label
  • Bottles should be dark in color to protect from oxidation
  • The “harvest date” or “best by” date should be on the label
  • Look for certification from the USDA or the NAOOA
  • Buy boutique olive oils at stores that have tasting bars
  • Do not store olive oil near a heat source; and once the bottle is opened use it quickly to avoid deterioration in the flavor.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil labels

Here’s to getting the most for your money.

Patricia Rio
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