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The Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Hoax

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The “extra-virgin olive oil” in your kitchen is probably not extra-virgin at all. To qualify as extra-virgin, olive oil is supposed to be subjected to minimal processing and be made exclusively from fresh, high-quality olives. But a highly publicized research report from the Olive Center at University of California, Davis, found that 69% of the olive oil sold as “extra-virgin” in the US does not meet those standards. The flavor of these fakes typically falls well short of the real thing. Also, a diluted or heavily processed olive oil might not provide the same cancer and heart disease–fighting benefits of a true extra-virgin olive oil.

Producers get away with selling fake extra-virgin olive oil because the US government does little to enforce olive oil standards…and because most Americans have never tasted a true high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil, which makes it difficult to spot fakes.

What to do: Buy from trustworthy brands, such as California Olive Ranch (from $12.59 for a 500-ml bottle, CaliforniaOliveRanch.com)…Cobram Estate (from $12.99 for a 375-ml bottle, CobramEstate.com)…Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand (from $6.99 for a 500-ml bottle)…and Oro Bailén (often $20 or more for a 500-ml bottle, OroBailen.com).

Or buy from an importer or a distributor of high-quality olive oils, such as Oliviers & Co. (OliviersAndCo.com) and Zingerman’s (Zingermans.com). Alternately, you could join the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club and receive three bottles of stellar olive oil four times a year ($99 per quarter for three 250-ml bottles, FreshPressedOliveOil.com).

Other good bets include any US-produced olive oil that has the “COOC” seal of the California Olive Oil Council on its label…or any Italian olive oil that says “100% Qualità Italiana.” Extra-virgin olive oil produced in Australia is a reasonable choice, too—Australia enforces the world’s strictest extra-virgin olive oil standards.

Note: To read research results from the University of California, Davis, go to OliveCenter.UCDavis.edu and click on “Research” and then “Reports.”

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Source: Larry Olmsted, author of Real Food, Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating & What You Can Do About It. Based in Hartland, Vermont, he also writes the “Great American Bites” column for USA Today. RealFoodFakeFood.com Date: February 15, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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