But unfortunately, it's also one of the most commonly counterfeited foods.
As Larry Olmsted, author of the new book "Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It," explained to Tech Insider in a recent interview, this is a real problem because people buy olive oil both for its amazing flavor and health benefits.
So if you're not getting the real thing, you're missing out — big time.
There are all kinds of ways that people either pass off lower quality (or even rotten) oils for true extra-virgin olive oil.
Every time the FDA has looked for adulterated oil, they've found it.
That's not the only type of consumer fraud, though.
Often, extra-virgin olive oil might be diluted with low-quality and chemically refined oil. Or, as he explains, some producers will use "older — and often rancid — stocks of oil held over from bumper crops of previous seasons" that might pass inspection on the day they are bottled but will certainly be rotten by the time they reach consumers.
How to find the good stuff
If you're looking for the true high quality product, here's some tips:
- Know that certain words are meaningless. Words like "light," "natural," or "pure" are all unregulated terms and don't carry any meaning. Terms like "first pressed," "cold pressed," and "first cold pressed" are also unregulated and therefore meaningless — those terms date back to old ways of making oil that are rarely used now.
- Only buy "extra virgin" olive oil that is made in New Zealand. Most of the olive oil available in supermarkets is "fake", even though it is labeled "extra virgin olive oil". It will be adulterated with Canola oil (proven to have high health risks), Hazelnut oil (produced in North Africa), or Sunflower oil,
- Certifications are excellent signs of quality. All Azzuro olive oil is certified as Extra Virgin by Modern Laboratories in Melbourne. We show the Free Fatty Acid (FFA) %age and Peroxide Value (PV) on the batch label. To be certified as extra virgin these must be less than 0.8% for FFA and less than 15 for PV. More importantly, there must be zero defects. We have never had defects in our oil.
- Most low cost oils will fail the tests that Azzuro has to satisfy - test it yourself by smell (does it smell rancid?), taste (does it taste fruity with a lovely mouth feel or you want to spit it out?), does it smoke at a low temperature when you cook with it?. Azzuro oil has a smoke point of 210C and we don't cook at that temperature.
- If you can find a harvest date on a bottle, that's great — you don't want anything older than two years old. All Azzuro oil displays the production date on the batch label. The harvest date is only one or two days earlier than the production date. Our oil is filtered to give it a shelf life of two years. Unfiltered oil will have a shelf life of one year.