Is Your Organic Olive Oil Fake?

by Ann Marie Michaels on December 4, 2013

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I was paid to write this post. I only do this for companies I believe in.

Is Your Organic Olive Oil Fake?

Organic olive oil is one of my favorite fats to use in my recipes. From pesto to salads and hummus to pasta, organic olive oil adds a delicious flavor that that you can use in a wide variety of recipes.

However, many organic olive oils on the market are fake. Due to rampant olive oil fraud, it’s very difficult to find real organic olive oil.

In this post, I’ll show you how to spot the fakes and how to find real organic olive oil.

Italians and Olive Oil

The first time I visited Italy was in 2006. I went with my mother and sister to Tuscany for the vacation of a lifetime. We spent 7 days in Montepulciano, a medieval and Renaissance hill town.

People in Italy are extremely passionate about their food. They’re constantly trying to feed you, saying, “Mangia! Mangia!” (“Eat! Eat!”) My mom joked, “We didn’t have a hunger pang the whole trip!”

We took Italian cooking classes at our bed and breakfast, going truffle hunting and wine tasting, and of course, eating lots of delicious Italian food.

Chris Making Pizza

Chris teaching us how to make pizza

Chris, the owner of the bed and breakfast, moved to Italy with his wife and two children to open the bed and breakfast and teach cooking classes. When his oldest son enrolled in the local Italian kindergarten, they went to a open house at the school.

Chris said that the Italians spent 2 of the 3 hours at the school open house discussing the food the children would be eating. He said the Q & A went on and on… “What olive oil do you use for the lunches? Which farm does the olive oil come from? Who is pressing the olive oil — does it happen at the farm?”

Cooking Class in Tuscany, Italy

Cooking class in Tuscany with Chris, my sister and mother

We all laughed at the notion of food-obsessed Italians grilling the school administrators about every detail of the school lunch.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that the reason the Italians are so finicky about the olive oil their children are eating is because olive oil fraud is rampant in Italy.

Olive Oil Fraud: How Olive Oil is Adulterated

According to the New Yorker magazine:

“In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. (‘Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,’ one investigator told me.)”

Many brands cut organic extra-virgin olive oil with low-grade “lampante” oil which is oxidized, or rancid. Extra virgin olive oil, by definition, contains no more than 0.8% free acidity. (Lampante refers to the fact that this cheaper olive oil was used for lamps.)

According to the New Yorker:

“(In olive oil, free acidity is an indicator of decomposition.) Virgin oil, the next grade lower, must have free acidity of no more than two per cent. Oil that has a greater percentage of free acidity is classified as lampante.”

Many brands also cut the extra virgin olive oil with cheaper oils, such as hazelnut oil. Olive oil can also be cut with canola oil or soybean oil, which not only makes the olive oil not organic, but increases the chance that GMO ingredients went into making the olive oil. (Source: ABC News)

Some olive oils contain artificial coloring to make it look like the olive oil we see on TV, which makes it definitely not organic. True organic olive oil uses no chemicals in the production process, and will reflect the natural color of the olives from which it was pressed. (Source: NPR)

organic olive oil olives

Organic Olives from Jovial Foods

Why Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil?

Does it really make a difference if you use organic extra-virgin olive oil vs. non-organic? Does it matter which brand you use?

Absolutely.

Obviously you want organic olive oil because it contains no pesticides or herbicides, or GMO ingredients.

In addition, a real organic extra-virgin olive oil contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants. Organic extra-virgin olive oil contains the highest amounts of polyphenols. Obviously an olive oil that is cut with cheaper oils will contain a much lower amount of these antioxidants.

What Makes Olive Oil Organic?

An organic olive oil uses organic olives. Further, real organic olive oil is made by pressing olives and processing them without chemicals or artificial colors.

An organic olive oil will not be altered by heat, deodorizers, or the addition of cheaper oils (Sources: The Chronicle Herald and NPR).

How to Know if Your Organic Olive Oil is Real

Bottom line: You need to know your producer. This is why those Italian parents at the kindergarten open house wanted to know which farm the olives came from, and how they were processed and by whom.

Real organic olive oil comes from companies that are willing to talk about their process. Many big brands don’t talk about their process in depth or talk about where they get their olives.

Here’s another tip to help you find real organic olive oil: Never buy oil in a clear bottle. According to The Guardian, olive oil that is sold in clear bottles goes bad faster than those in colored bottles due to oxidation. Plastic and tin bottles are also candidates for toxins and contamination. If it’s real, the organic olive oil will come in a colored glass bottle.

jovial foods organic olive oil

Where to Find Real Organic Olive Oil

Because of the rampant olive oil fraud, I only use olive oil from brands I trust. In my kitchen, I use Jovial Foods Organic Olive Oil.

organic olive oil harvest

Jovial Foods' Italian Organic Olive Farm

Jovial’s organic olive oil is made from 100% Italian organic ancient varieties of olives. This is an authentic organic Italian olive oil, grown in the Valpantena area and the hills above Lago di Garda.

A small group of passionate farmers are working to save these rare Italian varieties of olives from extinction.

organic olive oil process

Organic Olive Oil Process at Jovial Foods

The temperature never exceeds 80F during pressing, and the olives are only pressed and bottled and olive oil in Jovial’s facility.

Here’s a video about Jovial’s process of creating the best olive oil possible, with no chemical additives:

Pre-Order Jovial Organic Olive Oil and Save 20%

Olive oil is a seasonal food — it’s harvested each fall. I buy my olive oil every fall, and it lasts me all year in the cupboard. (I also buy for my friends and family — it makes the perfect holiday gift.)

Pre-order olive oil from the Jovial Foods website and you’ll receive the olive oil that is harvested this season — and you’ll save 20% and get free shipping. Your order will ship in early January 2014.

Click here to pre-order Extra-Virgin Organic Olive Oil from Jovial Foods.

Hurry — this special offer ends on December 31, 2013.

Photo credits: Jovial Foods, avlxyz from Flickr

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca December 5, 2013 at 4:24 AM

“In this post, I’ll show you how to spot the fakes and how to find real organic olive oil.”

Did I miss something because I didn’t find how to spot the fakes?

Yesterday I needed a password to access this article and today it seems like it is all about an advertisement vs. how to spot fake olive oil.

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Jessica Moore December 5, 2013 at 12:36 PM

I agree. I can’t find how to spot fakes or how to find the real stuff.
If I want to buy Jovial Foods’ olive oil, I can find how to do that. And I agree they are a great company. But are they the *only* company making pure unadulterated organic olive oil?

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Deb December 5, 2013 at 4:52 AM

Olive oil is a $1.5 billion industry in the United States alone. According to Tom Mueller, who wrote a scandalously revealing book called “Slippery Business” says that 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold is adulterated — cut with cheaper oils. That is something to think about when buying olive oil!

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Julie December 27, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Don’t you mean, “Extra Virginity?” That was the book he wrote. On his website, he tells you how to spot fake vs. the real deal and gives a wide variety of good choices, some of which are quite surprising. http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/. Great website!

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Raquel December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM

I’m in Canada how the heck to I find real olive oil here?

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Abe December 5, 2013 at 7:14 AM
Brooke December 5, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Rebecca, you didn’t miss anything. There was nothing about how to spot a fake other than it should come in a dark glass bottle and be the color of olives. Olives are purple & green and I’ve never seen purple or green olive oil. Also, she loses all credibility when she supports only one brand, in my mind. Had she given a list of 10 or more reputable brands, then it would have been ok, but this is just an advertisement for Jovial. I read a blog post awhile ago that said Costco’s EVOO Organic was also a good one. I didn’t recognize any of the other brands it touted, so I don’t remember them, plus, I buy Costco’s brand, so I was in the clear. But geez…if you are going to post a “how to spot a fake” article, give us a list of how to find out if its fake. Who do we call? How do we know if they say they get their olives from the Smith farm, how do we know if the Smith farm is reputable? Geez…help a sister out!!! And then list brands that you know to be reputable…maybe with her experience in Italy she should have listed all the brands that Italians use. Something…just give us something other than a commercial.

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Diana December 5, 2013 at 9:45 PM

I agree. And I, too, also read that same blog post about Costco’s EVOO having the OK, so I have been using that since.

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Jessica Camarena December 5, 2013 at 9:47 AM

Isn’t Bariani a great brand also?

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Dawn Campbell December 5, 2013 at 10:08 AM

disappointed. ..

Weston A Price Foundation has an article on testing your oil folks and I believe a list of brands they recommend in the shopping guide. I buy organic California oils and I’ve known about this for a long time now thanks to that WAPF article. I am sure Jovial is a good brand but there arr other alternatives.

best test is refrigerate it. olive oil will quickly solidify in fridge while the versions that are adulterated are done so with soybean or nut oils that don’t solidify. so put your bottle with lid on tight on its side over night then in the morning tip it back up and it should stay stuck to side until it warms up some.

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Dawn Campbell @ Naturally Texan December 5, 2013 at 10:13 AM

here’s a couple oils someone tested as I recommendes per WAPF – http://www.radicallynatural.com/2012/10/my-olive-oil-fridge-testwho-passed.html

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Kathy December 5, 2013 at 10:16 AM

I think this was a fairly good article. She’s telling us about the oil she uses. It’s a little bit of an advertisement post, but if you want to know of more brands do some research on your own. I lived in southern Italy for 7 years in the late 1980′s in amongst lots of very old olive trees. The oil they sell here, in the USA, for the most part is crap. I love Jovial oils.

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Heather December 6, 2013 at 1:02 PM

If you Google this you can read the original research that shows which American (and some imported) brands are adulterated. I remember reading that the California brands were far less likely to be adulterated. One quick check on your oil is to stick it in the fridge for a couple hours. True EVOO will actually solidify, at least partially, in cold temps. It’s not a perfect test, but if your oil doesn’t get thick, cloudy and partially solidify you know it’s not EVOO. I did this with my “organic” Carapelli and guess what? No cloudiness, no thickening — totally adulterated. I have also heard that with EVOO, you get what you pay for and cheap EVOO is more likely to be adulterated than that which costs more. If your EVOO is pure, you can even stick it in the refrigerated section of the supermarket and then go shop for 15 minutes — the really good stuff will begin to cloud very quickly. I’ve even been in Whole Foods in the summer when they had the air cranked up and the EVOO sitting on the shelves was clouding up it was that chilly. Trader Joe’s sells a Spanish Organic EVOO that thickens up nicely in the fridge and a non organic California Reserve that also thickens up and turns cloudy. Shop around — there’s more out there than just Jovial, as nice as I am sure they are.

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Deb December 7, 2013 at 6:41 AM

I have been using the 365 Whole Foods Brand label says 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cold processed. On the back label says to not refrigerate as it can become cloudy at low temperatures and also says it is tested for quality to meet international standards. So I am going to do the refrigerator test with that one overnight and see what happens. I will report back tomorrow

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lee December 17, 2013 at 11:38 PM

I read that the WholeFoods brand failed the test, a bummer since i was using that.

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Celeste January 28, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Whole Foods 365 in fact passes all the tests I have read about:
http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/2012/09/toms-supermarket-picks-quality-oils-good-prices

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Renae February 6, 2014 at 5:10 AM

I was using the 365 Whole Foods Brand also. I have food sensitivities, and wasn’t feeling great from it, so I had my suspicions about it. I switched to Colavita Organic Extra Virgin, and LOVE it!

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Deb December 18, 2013 at 4:57 AM

You are correct Lee the Whole Foods Brand never clouded up and never solified and I to have been trusting it to be legit. Now I will look for another brand!

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Bianca December 22, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Chill, Karen December 21, 2013 at 4:58 PM, seriously. I can’t understand why you, or an number of other commenters are so indignant. It’s not like you paid to read this post. The blogger of this site spoke from her own experience and the brand she TRUSTS. If you want a list of all the other options for your part of the world, do the research yourselves. Read the rest of the comments, there’s enough here to help you out. That’s what’s great about blogs and the blogging community. Shared information.

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TJ Boston December 27, 2013 at 5:02 PM

…and there ARE two disclaimers at the end of the article admitting her compensation…

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Kathy December 22, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Bianca, Very nicely written and spot on.

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Jen January 20, 2014 at 9:25 PM

I still use Chaffin Family Orchards olive oil, which this blog, and every other real food blog I read, used to support as THE olive oil to use for years.

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Jen January 20, 2014 at 9:27 PM

It does solidify in the fridge. I have to remove my homemade salad dressings to warm up about 30 minutes before serving.

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Niella June 3, 2014 at 9:08 AM

Is there any way to know if the olive oil used for a bar of soap is fake?

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