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Extra Virgin Fraud: How To Tell If Your Olive Oil is a Fake

We’ve been told to steer clear of anything containing an ingredient we can’t pronounce. We’ve also been told to buy organic, and mistrust any labels guaranteeing "all natural" or “fat-free”. We’ve practically become private investigators of the products that line the shelves of our grocery stores. There is one aisle; however, which we believe doesn’t receive enough scrutiny. An aisle that you most likely assumed was in the clear of any scandal or fraudulent behavior. Well, we’re about to tell you why you should pause and reconsider when selecting an olive-oil.

The sad and unfortunate truth is that most olive oils on your local grocer’s shelves are a scam. Yes, you heard right, a scam. That beautiful light green glass bottle which boldly reads in fine cursive “Made in Italy”, contains oil that was most likely grown in Morocco or Tunisia, or a country with less expensive production costs, but then was shipped and bottled in Italy. Pretty sneaky, huh? You should also know that the contents of that bottle are not exactly 100% oil from olives. It’s likely been mixed with less expensive oils like sunflower-seed oil or soybean oil. Some refineries are even worse, and mix beta-carotene with vegetable oil to trick your senses, and add chlorophyll to mimic that olive-y tinge. This is an olive-oil epidemic people, and it’s been going on for centuries!

At this point you may be thinking, “have I really been dipping my bread and drizzling my salad with beta-carotene chlorophyll infused soybean oil?”. The short answer is...you probably have been, but don’t worry and take a deep breath because we have some good news as well as some tips and tricks to ensure your Extra Virgin Olive Oil is no fraud.

The good news is that there is literally a branch of the Italian Police devoted entirely to combatting oil fraud, so you can rest easy knowing the crime against that Mediterranean gold is being stopped.

Here are a few other deciphering tools you can use in the meantime: 

  • Read the fine print: Skim the back of the label to see if it matches the front label’s claim of being made in Italy, Greece, or Spain.
  • Don’t buy anything that says “light olive oil” or “cold pressed” on the label. It doesn’t actually mean anything… The darker the glass the better. Only purchase oils in a dark colored glass bottles. Steer clear of plastic, and steer clear of anything transparent.
  • Taste test! Authentic E.V.O.O. should be powerful, peppery, and catch in your throat when you swallow. If this doesn’t happen when you take a plain swig with the bottle you chose to bring home, return it!

If you follow these guidelines, you are definitely decreasing your odds of purchasing an Extra Virgin Fraud, but we also wanted to give you a couple pointers for keeping that oil fresh and maximizing its health benefits:

  • One: try not to cook with Olive Oil when using high heat. Go with coconut oil or Grapeseed oil, which are much more resistant to heat. When exposed to high heat, Olive Oil undergoes oxidation, forming free radicals and harmful compounds that you definitely don’t want to be consuming! Leave that precious Olive Oil for drizzling on salads, or enjoy in other raw forms.
  • Two: Olive Oil is extremely perishable, so keep your oil in a cool, dark place (pantry or cabinet and away from the oven is ideal) to keep from going rancid.
  • And three: try to purchase small-medium sized bottles to ensure freshness, and keep an eye on that expiration date!

Next time you go to the grocery store, feel empowered that you will no longer be a victim in this Extra Virgin Scandal!

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