Connecticut Enacts Olive Oil Standards

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."

Yay, Connecticut!

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. "


SnoWhite said…
any insight on the Olive Oils made by Crisco? Are these okay for peanut/tree nut allergic folks?
Unknown said…
When I first read of this problem, Bertolli was, in fact, one of the offenders mentioned. Hopefully they have cleaned up their act since then. However, there is nothing to ensure that your olive oil has not been hauled in a truck that previously hauled hazelnut oil, so be aware of cross contamination issues as well as out-and-out fraud. If you are allergic to nuts, Olive oil may not be an oil you can rely upon.
Allergic Girl® said…
hi sara, i would contact crisco directly and ask them.

and p: really bertolli? eek. well, i have already emailed them and asked what assurances they give about the purity of their product. so let's see if/when the respond.
Unknown said…
A few references:

Bertolli (and others):

Some other offenders (Canadian brands):

"In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing olive oils for purity, conducted a study. Only 4 per cent of the 73 brands of olive oils tested proved to be pure olive oil. Most products were adulterated with vegetable oils, which have been shown to cause, not prevent heart disease. Oils such as canola, corn, cottonseed and soy oils were used with as little as only 10% olive oil in some products"

Leah said…
Is this only the case w/ olive oil or are other oils, soybean, canola, etc. susceptible to cross contamination w/ nut oils as well?
Allergic Girl® said…
his seanandleah:
in truth i don't know. the only reports that i've seen have been about olive oil.
Jenny said…
Yes, I read this in the New Yorker last year and then heard the segment the other day. This was terrifying to me since olive oil is a staple in our family. However, I hope we are OK since my Greek husband will settle for nothing less than the best olive oil! :)

It's always something! Thanks for your efforts in researching this. Your tips on buying olive oil are VERY helpful.

Popular Posts