Fellow blogger Nixed Nuts tipped me off to this recent National Public Radio story about olive oil fraud. (Here's an earlier New Yorker story as well.)
"We came across cans of olive oil that were for sale in Connecticut that had, after testing, these other oils in there — peanut oil, soy oil, hazelnut oil..."
The NPR story continues. Because of this, "...Connecticut became the first state in the nation to enact standards to protect the purity of olive oil...They mirror regulations set by the International Olive Council in Spain, and create legal definitions for "virgin," "extra virgin" and "olive-pomace" oil. And the state has the authority to fine wholesalers who sell diluted olive oil without proper labeling."
According to The Boston Globe: "Other states, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have told Connecticut officials they're interested in creating their own regulations. A new law in California, similar to Connecticut's regulations, takes effect in January."
Ok, good, glad other states are on it. However, until then, what to do?
Boston Globe quotes importer Sclafani (Connecticut's whistle blower), "... who buys his olive oil from Sicily, said consumers should look for a known brand when they're making a purchase. Often, he said, the frauds come in a bottle or tin with a conjured-up Italian name on the label.
He said people should also think twice if the price seems too cheap.
"If it's too good to be true, it's not true," he said. "Let the buyer beware."
Always good advice.
Another thought from Dr. Andrew Weil: "I suggest that you buy small bottles from a reputable company or source. Look for the yellow-green color and deep olive flavor that indicates high quality products. Certification as organic can also be a sign of quality. If you can find imported oils with IOOC certification on the label, go for them. (The California Olive Olive Oil Council [COOC] certifies purity of oil produced in California.)"
Those lovely little artisan bottles of "evoo" are nice but the opposite of cost effective. (Unless, of course, you're traveling in an olive oil producing country and can pick up a bottle or two, which I did in the south of France a few years back. I'd never seen such virginal olive oil, it was like liquid olives!) I'm a fan of the large bottles of olive oil by Bertolli that one can buy at Costco since I go through so much of it.
Here's what Bertolli says on their site about quality:
"Which guarantees assure me the quality of my Bertolli olive oil?
Firstly the experience and history of the Bertolli family. Bertolli is the leading olive oil brand worldwide. Furthermore, Bertolli undertakes extensive quality control. Strict European laws regulate the production and sale of olive oil. An established brand such as Bertolli is your best guarantee of an oil which meets these stringent regulations. Bertolli olive oil is exported from Italy worldwide, and so the strict European laws and International Olive Oil Council standards are always applied. "