(This is an update of a Special Report on the shenanigans behind the production of olive oil. How very little of what is supposed to be “extra virgin,” “organic” and so on is even olive oil. According to author and researcher Tom Mueller, this is costing you in terms of your health. To get the well known health aspects of the Mediterranean Diet, you actually have to have REAL olive oil. Chances are good you are NOT getting real olive oil.)
Your “Olive Oil” May Be Poisoning You…
Most “Extra Virgin” Olive Oil is Not Even Olive Oil
You buy “extra virgin” olive oil because you believe it’s healthy.
69% of the time, you could be buying something else.
Something that is “rancid, fusty and musty.”
Something that could be mostly soybean oil or peanut oil or canola oil or sunflower oil or any of a number of other cheaper oils.
In the well researched book Extra Virginity, The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, author Tom Mueller points out that 69% of olive oil that is labeled “extra virgin” is not olive oil at all.
69% of Olive Oils Had…Flaws
“A recent survey of supermarket extra virgins performed by the UC Davis Olive Center, in cooperation with the Australian Oil Research Laboratory, revealed that 69 percent of oils tested had taste flaws such as rancid, fusty, and musty, which meant that they weren’t extra virgin oils at all, and had been mislabeled…similar findings were reached by Andreas Maerz in Germany, by CHOICE magazine in Australia, by the regional government of Andalucia, and by documentaries in Swiss and German television about extra virgin quality in those countries…Paul Vossen, a University of California oil specialist (says)…’I would say very seldom do we ever find one that passes as extra virgin…price is by no means an indicator of quality…The high-ticket items can be equally bad.’…
Market Awash in Counterfeit Oils
Mike Bradley concludes that ‘the market is awash in counterfeit olive oil to the point that most legitimate sellers have given up trying to sell the real thing to wholesale suppliers or restaurants. It is rare to find authentic extra virgin olive oil…even in fine restaurants that ought to know better. It’s nearly impossible in some localities…’”
More Money in Adulterating Olive Oil Than (there was) in Bootlegging
From Mueller’s book again:
“there is more profit in adulterating olive oil than there is in bootlegging. The practice of adulterating this oil has grown until it has become a menace to the honest importers in the trade.” –US Health Commissioner Royal S. Copeland speaking in 1922, two years into prohibition.
Systematic Corruption of the Olive Oil Market Continues to This Day
Over a number of years, Mueller’s research for the book took him all over the olive oil world, to Italy, Spain, Greece, and to the new world producers in California, South America and Australia.
What he found was a systematically corrupt network of growers, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers that has made the term “extra virgin” useless. Even the term “organic” is no guarantee that you and I are getting the real deal.
Good News: Healthy Olive Oil IS Available
There is a strong and vibrant movement underway of growers and retailers who care about the quality of the olive oil they produce and sell.
It IS possible to buy real olive oil and receive the anti oxidant and anti inflammatory qualities olive oil is recognized for.
The Bad News: Good Olive Oil Stings
“If an oil doesn’t sting at the back of the throat, it contains little or no oleocanthol.” (my bolding) If you are used to bland olive oils, the real deal may take some getting used to. The substances that give rise to the health benefits make olive oil bitter and sting at the back of the throat. If it stings to the point of coughing, even better.
More Good News: The Health Benefits are Awesome
From Mueller’s book again:
“ ‘A low incidence of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and certain kinds of cancer (my bo lding)—these are among the central benefits attributed to the Mediterranean diet,’ says Gary Beauchamp. ‘Since the 1950s, people have accepted that olive oil, the main source of fat in this diet, is the keystone of the dietary regime.’ Some of olive oil’s positive effects stem from its monounsaturated fat profile, but, more and more, medical research suggests that the polyphenols and the other ‘minor components’ of olive oil, which constitute a scant 2 percent of its volume, are the main source of oil’s health benefits. These same substances give a high-quality olive oil its pepperiness, bitterness, and other prized sensory properties; in fact, the oil’s healthful benefits are directly proportional to the strength of its flavors, aromas, and other sensory characteristics. If an oil doesn’t sting at the back of the throat, it contains little or no oleocanthol. if it isn’t bitter, it’s low in tocopherol and squalene. If it isn’t velvety in texture, then it’s missing hydroxytyrosol.”
Sources for the Good Stuff and Not All is Expensive!
Tom Mueller’s site has sources: http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil
Transcript for those without computers:
California Olive Ranch – good fresh extra virgin olive oil, mainly from the arbequina and arbosana cultivars, grown in super high density groves in northern California. Available at a wide range of stores throughout the US (see the store locator). Note that their Limited Reserve is the highest-quality oil, unfiltered and from olives picked during the first 2 weeks of harvest (reviewed here). “Everyday” is the company’s best-seller, with a flexible flavor profile. Arbequina, Arbosana, and Miller’s Blend oils, part of the company’s “gold medal series,” have actually won more medals in olive oil competitions than COR’s other oils, thanks to their distinct flavor profiles.
- Cobram Estate – extra virgin olive oil from a range of cultivars, grown in Australia with the medium high density agronomic model, which has won olive oil competitions including best of show at the 2011 Los Angeles County Fair. Available here:
- Cost Plus World Markets nationally
- Raley’s and Save Mart in northern California
- Fairway in New York
- QFC and Haggen in Seattle
- King Soopers in Denver
- IGA stores in Vancouver
- Corto Olive – good, fresh super-high-density arbequina oil available at Costco (occasionally), HEB, Zabar’s under the Zabar’s label, Kroger as a specialty label called “Private Selection.” I profile Dino Cortopassi, founder of the company, in Extra Virginity.
- Costco Kirkland Toscano – Kirkland is the Costco store brand. I’ve been disappointed by Kirkland Organic EVO (not to mention the “extra virgins” in multi-liter plastic jugs), but the Toscano signature oil is the real deal.
- Lucini – a wide range of fine oils, led by the top-of-the-line Limited Reserve Premium Select oil. I quibble with the clear glass bottles, which impair the shelf life, but as long as the oil is fresh it’s first-rate, and is widely available across North America. See the store locator. Lucini Premium Select is their finest oil, made on a a single estate near Bolgheri, in the Maremma region of Tuscany. Their Estate Select oil is made from olives grown in various estates in central Italy; since it’s sourced from a wider group of farmers, it costs less.
- Oleoestepa – just entering the US retail market, this Spanish cooperative produces excellent oils at competitive prices. Keep an eye out for their oils arriving in shelves near you soon!
- O-Live – available at stores across Canada, and in selected US stores (including HEB in Texas). See the store locator (which sources tell me isn’t always 100% reliable).
- Ottavioand Omaggio – in terms of value for money, I don’t know better oils than Ottavio and Omaggio: a fine balance of fruit, pungency, bitterness that will appeal to a wide audience, at rock-bottom prices. Ottavio is available at HEB and Central Market, and Omaggio is available at Sam’s Club. (Note: In the past, Valco Enterprises, producer of Ottavio, and Axiom Enterprises, producer of Omaggio, have both supported Truth in Olive Oil. Read here for what this means.)
- Trader Joe’s– 3 out of the 6 extra virgin oils I tasted in August, 2013 were the real deal. One of these, the Premium 100% Greek Kalamata, was very fresh, spicy, complex at an extremely competitive price (1 liter for $8.99). The California Estate Olive Oil was also a good choice, while the Premium Extra Virgin was decent and defect-free, if a bit uninspiring. The 3 other Trader Joe’s “extra virgins” I tasted were defective. (See here for details.)
- Whole Foods California 365 – The Whole Foods store brand from California is good-quality extra virgin olive oil at a great price. In my experience, the other members of the 365 lineup are poor – an odd situation from a company like Whole Foods that preaches quality über alles.
As mentioned above, there are likely to be many more good supermarket oils not included in this list. Please suggest some, and I’ll try them out as soon as I can.”
- Disappointment AND Excitement
- Corruption of the olive oil market is disappointing. I felt like the carpet was being pulled from under me as I read Mueller’s book. At the same time, it is inspiring to hear of the many producers whose hearts are in the right place. It means that you and I, armed with this new information, can go out and get the real stuff. We can throw out the old and start getting some of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
- Olive Oil is Anti-Inflammatory AND Anti-Oxidant
- As you may know, inflammation is said to be at the root of all dis-ease. Olive oil is anti-inflammatory.
- The “bad cholesterol” is only bad if it is oxidized. (My doctor, James Houston here in Victoria, agreed with me when I told him that). Olive oil, the real deal good stuff, is an anti-oxidant,
- So good olive oil may protect against all dis-ease and against the effects of the ‘bad’ cholesterol.
- Your Mission Should You Decide to Accept
- If your current olive oil doesn’t have that pepperiness at the back of the throat, it doesn’t have the oleocanthol.
- If your current olive oil isn’t bitter, it’s low in other healthy ingredients, namely tocopherol and squalene.
- And if it isn’t velvety in texture, that indicates there is no hydroxytyrosol in the oil.
- And if it has none of those, it may not be olive oil at all but any of a number of unhealthy and damaging vegetable oils.
- Is it time to throw it out then and find a source for the real stuff?
- I will leave it to your good judgement.
- Love, Laughter and Smiles.
- Matti Anttila
- S. Good olive oil is “worth its weight in gold” as the saying goes. In my opinion, it is far more worthy than gold. Good health and great energy far outweigh material riches. You can always make money IF you have your health and your energy. But if you don’t have your health, money means nothing.
- Therefore, I choose to pay the price for the real stuff. You wouldn’t put 50 octane gasoline into your car. Why would you put “50 octane or less” fuel into your body? Throw out the old stuff and get the real deal. You and your body deserve it.
- If you are in Victoria, a great source is “Olive the Senses.” http://olivethesenses.com They are in The Hudson at 1701 Douglas Street. 250.882.4210.
- Also: Save On Foods carries O-Live brand. Last price check $14.99 for a litre.
- Update November 2015: Hermes Brand available from the Persian deli on Quadra just down from McKenzie. Cost $25.99 for 3 litres. Have not had it tested, but it has the taste qualities that Mueller talks about. (Thanks to Gene)
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- Any and all information provided here is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individuals are advised not to self-medicate in the presence of significant illness. Always consult with your licensed medical practitioner first before undertaking anything…be it supplements, exercise programs or other protocols. The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Do not construe the information provided here as authoritative health advice…or authoritative advice of any sort. All information provided or referred-to on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be health, medical, financial, accounting or tax advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. Matti Anttila is not a licensed financial planner, doctor or health practitioner. If you’re not inclined to Do-It-Yourself then please, before you Do-It-To-Yourself, obtain professional advice.
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Disclaimer: Please make your own decisions about everything. That includes investment, taxation, health and/or any other area. Seek professional assistance before attempting any of the ideas, tools and/or techniques discussed herein.
Any and all information provided here is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individuals are advised not to self-medicate in the presence of significant illness. Always consult with your licensed medical practitioner first before undertaking anything…be it supplements, exercise programs or other protocols. The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Do not construe the information provided here as authoritative health advice…or authoritative advice of any sort. All information provided or referred-to on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be health, medical, financial, accounting or tax advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. Matti Anttila is not a licensed financial planner, doctor or health practitioner. If you’re not inclined to Do-It-Yourself then please, before you Do-It-To-Yourself, obtain professional advice.