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A message from our friends at the PCFMA:
Food fraud is an ever-growing problem in the US. And olive oil is at the top of the list. A 2011 study of extra virgin olive oil by the Olive Center at the University of California at Davis found that 73% of the five best-selling imported brands failed to meet the standards of taste and smell established for that grade of olive oil set by European regulators. Some olive oil that claims to be from Italy or Spain is actually brought from other countries and re-exported from there. Olive oil may be diluted with other oils like soybean or vegetable oil, or fabricated entirely from a cheaper oil doctored to look like olive oil. The “extra virgin” label does not pass the test, either. Over 69% of bottles labeled “extra virgin olive oil” were not extra virgin!*
So you’re probably not getting the quality OR the heart-healthy benefits associated with extra virgin olive oil!
In 2011 the United States adopted new olive oil standards, a revision of those that have been in place since 1948, which affect importers and domestic growers and producers by ensuring conformity. According to the Olive Oil Council, “Extra virgin olive oil is obtained only from the olive, the fruit of the olive tree, using solely mechanical or other physical means, in conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not alter the oil in any way. It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging, and filtering. This excludes oils obtained by the use of solvents or re-esterification methods, and those mixed with oils from other sources.”
There are different grades of oil:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Made from full-flavored ripe olives that are pressed immediately after harvest, extra virgin olive oil boasts a robust, fruity flavor. It has the most full-bodied taste and aroma of the olive oil varieties. Extra virgin olive oil is a superb choice for salads and vegetable dishes, for basting meats and seafood, and for seasoning soups, marinades and sauces. Or use as a dip for breads.
Olive Oil: Olive oil, sometimes described as “pure,” is an excellent all-purpose cooking oil that is more golden in color compared with extra virgin olive oil. It has a mild flavor with just a hint of fruitiness. It can be used for everything, from sautéing and stir-frying, to basting grilled or oven-roasted meats, poultry and seafood.
Extra Light Olive Oil: Extra light olive oil, with its light golden color, has the mildest flavor of the olive oils and just a hint of olive flavor. It can be used in place of plain vegetable oil in most recipes. Extra light olive oil also is the best choice for high heat cooking methods, because it remains extremely stable and won’t burn.
So get to your farmers’ market where you’re sure to find real California olive oil, locally made and bottled. And remember that high quality extra virgin olive oil provides the best health benefit and flavor when it’s fresh. Open your bottle within 18 months of its bottling date, and use it up within one month of opening. Be sure to store it in a cool, dark place. Enjoy!
*UC Davis study, December 2013.
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