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Adulterated Olive Oil Fraud

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I have been advocating the purchase of well-regarded California olive oil for quite a while, and for the last four years have ONLY bought California oils such as Bariani, McEvoy Ranch, California Olive Ranch, and a few others. I always check the production dates.

I first read about fraudulent oil back in 2007 in a New Yorker article by Tom Mueller - http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mueller . Since then it seems like almost every year there's another article or news report on the subject. I only buy oil from companies I know, regardless of where they (are supposed to) originate.

The more the subject is brought up and discussed, the better off we'll all be. We have had a couple of threads here on eGullet within the last year or so.

Be careful out there!


Edited by Shel_B (log)
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 ... Shel


 

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I buy the stuff that smells and tastes good. I realize that sounds reductive, but it appears to me to be the only solution.

Recently I've been buying Tunisian and Lebanese oil with good results, and they're cheap to boot. I also have had good luck with Murray's Greek olive oil, for those of you who live in NYC.

Bottling dates are printed on the back of some Italian bottles.

Adulteration could potentially be happening with any of these, I suppose, but if I don't like a product then I don't buy it again. And my guess is that olive oil is just one thousands of foods that are not labeled properly (and I don't expect the US to be superior to many other countries in that respect, I'm afraid). (See the sea salt thread for more suspicions. Again, buy salts that taste good & work for you.)

(Health and contamination issues, as opposed to mere misrepresentation, are a separate, if related, issue, in my opinion. I recently saw an air pollution map of the world on a well known news site, one contested of course in the comments section, that implied that a good chunk of the United States has unhealthy air, including areas outside of major metropolitan areas. We're all ingesting all sorts of poisons all the time, I'm afraid - it's the price of living in a developed world. Europe fared no better in that map. As for much of China - forget about it! Sorry if this is tangential, but the focus on olive oil seems to me to be missing the forest for the trees.)

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If a bottle says extra Virgin, that's what I'd expect. I think it's shocking that it's often not. I've heard now we have a similar problem with honey. Yet another reason to buy local.

I hate to constantly pick on the Chinese but it seems if there's a corner to cut, they'll take it. Have you had Chinese chiles? The taste sharp and antiseptic and now they're testing positive for heavy metals. And they can be marked made in Mexico! Chinese hibiscus flowers are dyed so they have a redder color.

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Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

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"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I've heard now we have a similar problem with honey.

It's been a problem with honey for a very long time.


~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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What bothers me is that the cheap, adulterated stuff is sometimes being sold for premium prices because of FALSE labeling.

I don't want to consume foods that contain a lot of heavy metals, arsenic, lead and so on. China does not care if manufacturers are cheating and using toxic stuff in foods - UNTIL they get caught.

Candy for children that contains lead and selenium has been seized. Dried and candied fruits, honey, preserves and etc., all have been found to contain toxins.

They allow or even encourage cheating on anything and everything.

The bad stuff is sold so cheaply that the LOCAL LEGITIMATE producers are run out of business.

I buy honey from a local producer (Blum Ranch in Acton, CA) where I can go to the ranch and pick up the product where it is produced.

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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It all boils down to the sad but true fact that you can't necessarily trust other people to supply wholesome and authentic food.


~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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It all boils down to the sad but true fact that you can't necessarily trust other people to supply wholesome and authentic food.

The Smithsonian sells a book called "The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible!" It's about how adulterated food was in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Milk was watered down and colored with chalk. Butter was cut with other, cheaper fats. Spoiled meats were sold. It's a story as old as tombs.

I often buy bulk spices from Mexico at the market since they are inexpensive. I have wondered what may really be in them, though.

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The New Yorker article on olive oil was turned into an extremely interesting book: Extra "Virginity: The Sumblime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.

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There is a ridiculously easy fix to this problem.

Learn what olive oil is supposed to taste like. And then don't buy oils that don't taste like olive oil. Most of the "olive oils" that I try don't taste like anything whatsoever. They just taste "oily." Big-whoop. So I've made it a point to go to olive oil producing regions, and then go to small family farms and try their oil. These are places that are so small, there is no reason for them to adulterate their oil. And, besides, their olive oil tastes like olive oil. Just learn what it's supposed to taste like. It's exactly like the difference between "table syrup" and maple syrup. Night and day. Once you know, you know.

I have learned that I like Spanish olive oil the best. California oil is a little too peppery for my taste. But it makes a great finishing oil for certain dishes. And there is nothing wrong with Italian, Greek and Turkish oils, either. I think my next olive-oil expedition will be to Morocco. They have a great olive culture, after all.

This is a problem we accept because as a society we simply don't know better.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I usually bring oil from home, in the South of Italy, buying from friends who produce oil. This time I couldn't and I'm buying from an Italian deli here, in NY, on tap. Oil from my hometown, a friend of the deli's owner. Trusting this time. It's not as spicy as I would like but good enough for my cooking.

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One of my friends prefers the olive oil from Israel because there are strict controls on it and huge penalties for adulteration or even mislabeling the grade of oil.

She taught in Israel (chemistry) for several years back in the '90s and as a chemist, (now retired) she is very conscious of the way some producers can cheat - sometimes with the collusion of the LOCAL government people.

The same thing can happen with wines, and other food products, and it also happens here in America because unless an industry polices itself, there are just not enough expert inspectors to catch the perpetrators.

Each of us has to be vigilant and read the "fine print" to make sure we are getting what we pay for.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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The large olive oil Importers were able to stop regulatory efforts in the last farm bill that would have made it harder to bring that crap oil into the US. They were able to accomplish this through their US distributors who contribute heavily to congressmen/women and senators. It politics boys and girls looking out for the American public.


"I drink to make other people interesting".

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I've been buying California Olive Ranch products. I'm fond of the Arbequina variety for a fruity oil that is not expensive

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is TJ's next? :blink:

their Kalamata not so Kalamatish? :huh:

hope not.

It can happen anywhere. I trust none of the supermarket olive oil brands, and, sad to say, feel uneasy about buying some of TJ's olive oils. I'm just going to stick to the producers I know and trust. Fortunately, there are many such producers in California, and lots of places to buy their products around the San Francisco Bay Area.


 ... Shel


 

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Well, regulations may make some difference but humans will remain human which means the problem will continue to some extent.

Organic food is regulated but that doesn't prevent cheating.

The problem is, from a consumer standpoint, you have no idea what's good and what isn't.


~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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California Olive Ranch oils are available here, how's one to know for sure that they can be trusted?


~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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There is a ridiculously easy fix to this problem.

Learn what olive oil is supposed to taste like.

Yes, exactly. I'm buying EVOO not because it's extra virgin or because it's unadulterated, but because it tastes good. There are plenty of bottles I would never buy, even if they are extra virgin, simply because they aren't what I'm looking for.


PS: I am a guy.

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There is a ridiculously easy fix to this problem.

Learn what olive oil is supposed to taste like.

Yes, exactly. I'm buying EVOO not because it's extra virgin or because it's unadulterated, but because it tastes good. There are plenty of bottles I would never buy, even if they are extra virgin, simply because they aren't what I'm looking for.

I find this reasoning a little cynical. i also want olive oil for health reasons. If they can manipulate the taste and use corn oil and salt, I don't want it. I'm not saying that can do that but if there's anything I want food regulations for, it's things like this. People will cheat, sure but that doesn't mean you stop any efforts.

As I mentioned above, we're in the process of importing chiles and they're being tested like crazy and it's not cheap. I don't like it and I know how ours were grown but other countries that seem to take shortcuts whenever possible, have made it rough for all chile importers. But what's the alternative?


Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I also use a fair amount of rice bran oil from California Rice Oil Company, which is certified GMO free,

and another California product, Napa Valley Grapeseed oil also GMO free. (35.99 per gallon at Napa Valley Naturals online- plus shipping) but is supposed to be available from Amazon soon.

The latter I use for frying because of the high smoke point - 485° F.

For a "finishing" oil I have been using Argan culinary oil because I love the flavor, which enhances so many foods. Since this is now readily available, unlike a few years ago when it was scarce and definitely "seasonal" and difficult to find, I buy it from Amazon.

So I am buying less and less olive oil during the past couple of years since I first read about adulterated olive oil.

I also avoid palm oil because of the enormous effect the increase in demand during the past few years has had on the environment in areas where some of the most endangered species are located.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Andie, not sure if you're familiar with Mark's Daily Apple, but West African palm oil seems to have less of an eco-impact. I've read a few disappointing mentions of off-flavors, however...

MDA - The Definitive Guide to Oils

I'm only keeping two olive oils in the house at any given time: Kirkland Organic EVOO, one of the only cheap/commodity-level olive oils to pass UC Davis' purity tests; and Frantoia Barbera out of habit. When I run out of Barbera, I try to sample other brands, but usually keep coming back due to its flavor profile...

And, based on the MDA article, I'm trying to use more lard, ghee, and bacon fat where possible!


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Some time ago we were 'B&Bing in S. Italy.

 I watched  at least a dozen 18 wheeler tanker trucks go past the farm we were staying at apparently full of OO.

The farm's owner told us about how local olive oil producers would send the OO from their oldest sick and dying trees to the Gov. Co OP. Keep the OO from the new trees for their own use. Scam the system by telling the Gov. they had expenses based on five hundred trees when they only had 100 trees and get a tax break and Gov. subsidies. He rolled his eyes and basically said the entire Italian OO industry was corrupt from the producers up to the distributors.

 When you can buy a gallon of 'Extra Virgin' Italian OO for 15 bucks you 

may be getting 2% actual EVOO. The rest is canola grown in Saskatchewan.

 The trucks were actually just driving into various OO farms. Stopping for a prescribed amount of time supposedly to fill up with OO. Then on to the next farm. What was in fact happening was the GOV. run CO OP trucks were empty but the GPS and 'Black Boxes' on the trucks which record everything date stamped from starting to stopping were making what is referred to as 'pencil-logs'. 

The tiny amount of the real deal EVOO was leaving the farms in 45 gallon barrels going directly to a 'cash buyer' somewhere.

 

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