Well, I missed this when it hit the news back in 2011, but I came across an article whilst doing some research recently and was horrified to learn that many extra virgin olive oils are adulterated with cheap, nasty, unhealthy vegetable oils. I really cannot begin to understand how this practice of ‘watering-down’ a high quality product is allowed to happen – but it does.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is sold at a serious premium because, as we are led to believe, this oil had been extracted using no heat or chemicals. It comes from the first pressings and is therefore of the highest quality. Lesser quality olive oils i.e. virgin or simply olive oil, come from later pressings where, in order to get every drop out of the fruit, heat and/or chemicals are used.
Not only are nasty oils being added to many EVOO, but sometimes artificial flavourings are added too in order to compensate for the loss of flavour due to it being degraded. I find this so depressing!
So, what can we do about it? Well, firstly put your EVOO in the fridge overnight. If it goes thick and opaque with whiteish crystals appearing on the glass, this is a good indicator that you’ve probably got a good one. If the oil has been contaminated, then it will remain free-flowing, non-cloudy and fully liquid.
When you go to buy your next lot of EVOO, choosing oil in dark glass rather than clear plastic denotes quality but also check on the label and see if it says produce of numerous countries – if it does, be suspicious. It may say produced in Greece, Spain, Italy etc. and bottled in the UK, that’s fine. It’s the source that is important. Opting for smaller producers and organic producers is also going to help ensure quality. It appears it’s the big producers who are guilty. In fact, a study in Australia found that 70% of EVOO were substandard and these were mainly big-name brands sold in supermarkets. Shopping online you can find various EVOOs that are certified pure and organic – you should be safe with these.