A Lot of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Fake. How Can You Make Sure You’ve Got the Real Stuff?

Almost everything in the world of nutrition is controversial. Are vegetables good for you? Or are they poison? Eggs are a vital source of basic nutrition or they kill you. Is coconut oil a superfood? Or is it stopping your heart? Butter has been so terrible for years that we’ve made something you can’t believe isn’t butter – and now butter is back.

But some foods have escaped scrutiny, such as extra virgin olive oil. Nobody has anything but praise for olive oil. Study after study shows its undeniable health benefits. In addition to fighting cancer, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s, lowering blood pressure, and neutralizing inflammation, it also contains good cholesterol and gets rid of bad cholesterol. The list goes on.

However, there is a good chance that the olive oil you own is fake.

There are claims that about 80 percent of olive oil sold in the United States is not what the manufacturer says it is. Others believe that this is an exaggeration by sensationalist journalists to gain readership. However, it’s true that we’re getting less olive oil, and there’s a good chance you’re missing out on the flavor and health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

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Extra virgin olive oil is made by extracting the oil from olives without the use of heat or chemicals, while retaining the good nutrients and flavor. But since USDA olive oil grades are not binding on producers, millions of Americans are buying mislabeled extra virgin olive oil. Most of the olive oil sold in the United States is aged, spoiled, or is made from low-quality old olive oil, or mixed with cheap seed oils such as canola and sunflower, and then colored with chlorophyll or beta carotene.

This means you don’t have to believe what the label says on the bottle you buy at the grocery store. Even famous and expensive brands that indicate the date on which the oil was packaged are not reliable. The oil can sit in giant vats for weeks or months before bottling.

However, there are several ways to provide yourself with the real thing. I spoke with Amy Shelton, Sarasota’s Mazzon Olive Oil Operations Manager, about how to identify good extra virgin olive oil.

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Smell it

Shelton says trust your nose. “It should always be enjoyable,” he said. “It should never go over your head.” If your EVOO doesn’t have a strong aroma, it may be adulterated. If it smells like soap or mold, it may be dry.

Enjoy it

“It shouldn’t be tasteless,” Shelton said. “You want to taste the olives.” Look for buttery, nutty or herbaceous notes in olive oil, he says. “And, bitter! Bitter is good in olive oil,” he said.

Feel it

Pure EVOO creates a unique sensation in your mouth. “When you swallow it, you should feel some sort of burning or tingling sensation in the back of your throat,” Shelton said. This sensitivity corresponds to the amount of polyphenols in olive oil. The more polyphenols, the purer and healthier the oil. “In the olive oil world, they call it pungent,” he says. “In Italy they call it pungent pizzait means ‘to pinch’.”

Don’t worry about the color

According to Shelton, color is not an indicator of quality. “There are hundreds of olive varieties in the world,” he said. This means that olive oil can range in color from yellow to green to gold. You can also have different levels of viscosity. “The variety of colors has an effect [the] “Olive grove,” Shelton said. “The time of harvest, the way it was processed, the region – all this can change the appearance of the olive, but it is not an indicator of quality.”

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Know your source

The best and most reliable way to know if you are getting extra virgin olive oil is to know and trust the producer. “You want to find out where that bottle was grown and where it was milled,” Shelton said. “You can’t rely on a distribution company.” Mazzone sources its olives directly from the company’s family groves in Apulia, Italy, where olive oil has been grown and produced for 100 years, Shelton said. “If you know the farmer, you know the integrity of what’s in the bottle,” he said. “That’s why I love being a manager at Mazzone. There is no middleman. We even invite people to travel to Italy to help us make the olive oil and see for ourselves.”


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