Fraud and Scams
NAVIGATING THE OLIVE OIL INDUSTRY: PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FAKE EVOO
Sadly, the fact is that there is indeed an abundance of fraudulent/adulterated extra virgin olive oil on the market. Different organizations use slightly different rules for classifying an olive oil as extra virgin olive oil. There is no exact gold standard that is followed by all regions that produce extra virgin olive oil.
In 2014, California passed the Grade and Labeling Standards for Olive Oil, Refined-Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil, which are highly restrictive regarding use of the phrase/classification extra virgin olive oil. The law authorizes random testing of any producer that produces more than 5,000 gallons of olive oil annually by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. As a result, California olive oil producers send their extra virgin olive oil out for 3rd party testing.
And it’s a good thing. In April 2011, UC Davis published a report entitled Evaluation of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Sold in California, which clearly showed that 73% of the top-selling imported brands that were evaluated (inc. Colavita, Star, Bertolli, Filippo Berio, Pompeian) failed both sensory panels. In addition, news keeps cropping up about reported olive oil fraud and olive oil scams all over the world including Italy and Spain.
To further complicate things, low harvests, for instance in Europe in 2016, tend to encourage further manipulation of olive oil in the form of adulteration with non-olive oils or non-virgin olive oils, and/or the use of damaged or over-ripe olives which lead to lower quality oil.
How can a consumer avoid fraudulent/adulterated extra virgin olive oils?
- Buy from reputable California producers (like the Olive Oil Source) because of the strict CA standards.
- Do your research – inquire about producer testing and analyses.
- Study the UC Davis report to understand more about big brands.