Jan 19, 2010

Adulterated Olive Oils – Fraud in the Marketplace

What if I told you that there was a pretty good chance that the olive oil in your pantry or fridge is Adulterated Olive Oil?  You may be wondering “Adulterated with WHAT?” With the growing need to decrease business costs as much as possible, many olive oil companies have started to regularly adulterate their olive oils with cheaper oils to keep costs low. Usually, Olive oil is adulterated with canola oil. While this may not mean much to the average person, a seasoned chef, foodie, gourmet, grocery chain, or restaurant owner can find this quite disheartening. Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil enhances food in it’s own special way, in addition to also being a healthy cooking oil choice.

Fraud In the Olive Oil Marketplace

What does one do when they find themselves unsure if their olive oil is adulterated? And who deciphers if it’s adulterated?

As most olive oil consumers know, the price of real extra virgin olive oil has risen dramatically. At the same time the quality of the products being offered has deteriorated dramatically. Logic would dictate that a significant percentage of olive oil consumers would prefer real extra virgin olive oil instead of the over-priced, mislabeled and adulterated products that have flooded the market. However, the consumer’s voice isn’t heard behind most olive oil supplier’s walls.

Since the average consumer doesn’t get a say in what is carried at their local store, the problem simply worsens. Brokers and suppliers try to stay competitive for pricing, and while doing this – may inadvertently sell or buy adulterated olive oil. Eventually, it makes it way into stores, thus setting the bar for a cheaper price on olive oil in the industry that pure, unadulterated olive oil suppliers just can’ compete with.

In addition to canola, olive oils can be adulterated with cheaper oils such as pomace olive oil, or another cheaper refined oil.

The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) is an intergovernmental organization based in Madrid, Spain, with 23 member states. It promotes olive oil around the world by tracking production, defining quality standards, and monitoring authenticity. More than 85% of the world’s olives are grown in IOOC member nations. The United States is not a member of the IOOC, and the US Department of Agriculture does not legally recognize its classifications (such as extra-virgin olive oil). The USDA uses a different system, which it defined in 1948 before the IOOC existed. The California Olive Oil Council, a private trade group, is petitioning the USDA to adopt IOOC rules.

The detection of olive oil adulteration is often complicated with no single test that can accomplish the task. A battery of tests is employed to determine Olive oil authenticity and identity of the adulterant. Included in this testing regime is the determination of free acidity, peroxide value, UV extinction, fatty acid composition, sterol composition, triglyceride composition, wax content, steroidal hydrocarbons, and the Bellier test. Test results are measured against the International Olive Oil Council trade standard to identify abnormalities. Each test provides key information which allows a decision to be made with respect to the grade of Olive oil and the identity of any adulterants.

Fixing the Problem

Since the adulteration of olive oils essentially depends on the market prices at the time, there really is no way to tell who is and who isn’t adulterating their olive oils without testing every single batch they churn out of their warehouse. Some actions you can take to insure that your favorite olive oil doesn’t turn to an adulterated oil is:

- Call your grocer’s headquarter’s and ask them to implement a system of testing.

- Run and report your own tests and findings to brands and companies that are carrying adulterated olive oils. (if you have the know-how)

- Report known cases of adulteration to the FDA and various authorities. Mislabeling a product and product deception is illegal in many parts of the world.

- Buy Olive Oil from only known unadulterated sources. Stay with what you know, and get the word out about avoiding known adulterated oils in your local stores.
Wholesale Olive Oil

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