20 Feb

The Slippery Business Of The Fake Olive Oil Industry

While in Greece I had the chance to vist the oldest known olive oil tree in the world. (See photo below) It was such an amazing experience! It was so big that I could not put my arms around its trunk. Most olive trees can live over 500 years but this one is over an astounding 3000 years old! Did you know that Greeks eat 25 kg of olive oil per year compared to 5 kg in North America and that 1/4 of Crete is covered with olive trees? I had such a magical time tasting the amazing food first hand that was drowning in liquid gold.

Olive oil is anti-inflammatory! Its known benefits include:
•    Reduce the likelihood of certain cancers including breast cancer
•    Lower "bad" blood cholesterol (LDL)
•    Offer protection from ulcers and gastrointestinal discomfort
•    Reduce the risk of gallstones
 
This made me think about the most daunting investigative report on the olive oil industry as first reported in the NEW YORKER Magazine titled “Slippery Business” by Tom Mueller. Mueller went on to write the book Extra Virginity. It is an exhaustive study of the underbelly of the olive oil business. 
 
More about Extra Virginity from the Amazon.ca website:
"For millennia, fresh olive oil has been one of life's necessities-not just as food but also as medicine, a beauty aid, and a vital element of religious ritual. Today's researchers are continuing to confirm the remarkable, life-giving properties of true extra-virgin, and "extra-virgin Italian" has become the highest standard of quality. But what if this symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt? Starting with an explosive article in The New Yorker, Tom Mueller has become the world's expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud-a story of globalization, deception, and crime in the food industry from ancient times to the present, and a powerful indictment of today's lax protections against fake and even toxic food products in the United States. A rich and deliciously readable narrative, Extra Virginity is also an inspiring account of the artisanal producers, chemical analysts, chefs, and food activists who are defending the extraordinary oils that truly deserve the name 'extra-virgin.'"
Many so called 'olive oils' on the market are in fact a bit of olive oil with a variety of rancid vegetable oils mixed in. This type of oil is highly processed, toxic and should not be consumed.
 
What You Can Do?
1) Buy organic oil if you can afford it as these companies must have paperwork to track the oil from field to table.
2) If you cannot afford organic then get to know someone who is in touch with an integral farmer in Europe. I paid a visit to Acropolis olive farm in Crete, Greece. For generations, the Acropolis Organics family has carried on the legacy of their ancestors, producing some of the purest, most delicious olive oil (both organic and bio-dynamic) "vintages" in the world. Each bottle is packaged with the utmost care with a pressing date. Panagiotis Tsiriotakis brought the generations-old family tradition of olive oil making to the Canadian market in 2003 and their product is available in many fine food stores. 
3) Get to know what Olive oil really tastes like. Light olive oil is not olive oil. Real extra virgin has a taste of pepperiness, and fruitiness. If you can’t taste the olives you most likely have deodorized cheap oil that could be soy or canola with some green colour added.
4) Buy oil packed in dark glass. The real stuff degrades in heat and light so avoid the clear plastic bottles that could be leaching plastic into your next meal!
5) Check out this Infographic published by the New York Times that illustrates olive oil fraud in Italy.
6) Share this blog on your social media. Tell your friends about olive oil fraud!
I encourage you to add olive oil and other good oils to your diet as the health of our bodies depend on high quality natural good fats. For more information about the benefits of olives, click here.
For a healthy olive oil salad dressing, click here.
 
World's oldest olive tree and the truth about olive oil
 
 
 

Comments  

# Julie Daniluk 2011-08-30 11:45
Updated Question: Can the Omega 6 in olive oil cause inflammation?

Answer:

If you are not buying organic olive oil (usually costing about $18-$20 per liter) then you are most likely buying olive oil that has been cut with peanut, canola, sunflower and/or safflower oil. Standard extra virgin oil will be higher in Omega 6. This issue is not unlike the honey laundering problem worldwide. The oil is seldom labeled properly and the government has only been taking the issue a bit more seriously because of people’s life threatening allergies to nuts.
That said, the Polyphenol and Omega 9 content in pure organic olive oil are proven anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer and would out way the small amount of naturally occurring Omega 6.
A persons own constitution would also come into play. If your insulin levels are chronically high then any Omega 6 content in any oil can cause inflammation. This would not be an argument to reduce your consumption of olive oil, instead balance your blood sugar levels.
# Guest 2013-02-22 14:26
I have heard that you should not cook with extra virgin - only with regular olive oil because extra virgin oil becomes toxic at high heat. Is this true? However, most stores (like Trader Joe's) only sell extra virgin. It's very difficult to find regular olive oil. What are your thoughts?
# Julie Daniluk 2013-02-24 10:29
Hi Sue,

You should not cook with olive oil. Olive oil should be added to your food after it has been cooked. You will notice in my recipes that I use it in a low heat sauté but I recommend spritzing it with water while cooking to keep the temperature down.

It is best to use organic extra virgin olive oil. Regular olive oil has been denatured and is often not real. Many cheap 'regular' olive oils are cut up to 80% with other vegetable oils that are rancid. Really olive oil is not cheap because the growing and processing is very intensive. If you do not see a lot # and a expiration date on the bottle, it most likely is not real olive oil.

Hope this helps, Julie
# Guest 2013-03-04 10:20
It is outrageous to think manufacturers of olive oil can get away with such practices. How (and why) on earth are they being allowed to not indicate other sources of oil on their ingredient list???
# Julie Daniluk 2013-03-04 11:52
Hi Louise,

I know! Crazy.

You might appreciate this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rbTXd41vwvQ#!

Cheers, Julie
# Guest 2013-04-26 13:40
Hi Julie,

I have been reading tons on the benefit of olive oil as well as coconut oil. Do you recommend coconut oil? Which oil do you recommend for cooking?
Thanks,
Marisa
# Julie Daniluk 2013-04-30 10:38
Hi Marisa,

Thanks for writing in!

I love coconut oil! For more information on my thoughts on coconut, check out this link: http://www.juliedaniluk.com/food-facts/how-eating-coconut-can-help-you-burn-fat.html

Cheers,
Julie
# Yvonne 2014-08-12 16:12
Hi Julie
I live in the UK and read about the olive oil scam last year (to my dismay!)..as I've been buying the stuff for years thinking it was the 'real deal'! So I now try to stretch my budget and buy organic in a dark glass bottle - however is this enough to safeguard from fradulent oils? If not, can you recommend a range in the UK? Also I read above that you don't recommend cooking with extra virgin olive oil (is that also true for olive oil?) Many thanks
# Julie Daniluk 2014-08-12 19:40
Hello Yvonne,

Thanks for checking in. When I was in Europe last year I check out the olive oil and they appear to have the same tracking system we have here in North America. Buying organic is a great first step but you also want look for the following:

Traceable - The red PDO seal ensures authenticity and quality control from the European Union. Each bottle has its own lot number, meaning it is not mass produced.
Single Estate
Single Mill
Single Variety
Extra Virgin - First pressing is the best
PDO - Protected Designation of Origin from the European Union also indicates a limited harvest.

Hope this helps!

Cheers, Julie
# Danielle 2015-02-20 13:24
Are there any specific brands of olive oil you would recommend that have been confirmed to be pure?
Thanks!
# Julie Daniluk 2015-02-27 13:08
Hi Danielle,

Personally I love Acropolis Organics as I mentioned above but any estate farm, organic olive oil should be safe. Just make sure to check to make sure the bottle has a pressing date.

Cheers, Julie
# Mansoor Malik 2016-10-12 17:04
Hi Julie,
a very informative piece on olive oil.
Would love to get your thoughts on the following olive oil I have come across. Especially interested in the health aspect that they have to offer.
www.zathune.com

Thoughts?

Thanks
# Julie Daniluk 2016-10-12 20:46
Hello Mansoor,

From what I can tell from their website the product looks good. Single estate that is tracked are usually good. This company is not organic so I would personally prefer another brand.

Cheers, Julie
# Mansoor Malik 2016-10-13 09:48
Thanks for the prompt response Julie. Will give it a try and share my feedback!
# Diane T 2016-12-27 14:26
Your thoughts about Maison Orphee ?
# Julie Daniluk 2016-12-27 16:00
Hello Diane,

The organic version of Maison Orphee is a good product.

Cheers, Julie

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