Thursday, April 11, 2013

Is Your Extra-Virgin Olive Oil the Real Thing?

Over the last few years, the natural foods industry has been full of reports of adulterated extra-virgin olive oil. Even some organic brands have been found to contain a percentage of vegetable oils.  Apparently more than two-thirds of common olive oil brands are not what they claim to be, according to this report.

Here are three simple checks you can do to find out if yours is the real thing.  
  1. Look for the IOC certificate of authenticity on the label.  Yes, I know, maybe they've paid the Mafia to have it certified, but... just see if it's there, anyway.  Apparently olive oils with this certificate are more likely to be authentic.
  2. Is it flammable? It should burn when a lighted match is touched to it --preferably not when the kids are watching! If it doesn't burn, it's probably adulterated with cheaper oils.  
  3. Note the olive oil's appearance after refrigeration. Real olive oil appears cloudy and thicker in texture after being stored in a cold place. If your olive oil's consistency remains the same, it is most likely not pure extra-virgin olive oil. Real olive oil will not necessarily turn solid in the refrigerator.  Read this blog post for more information about the reliability of the olive oil solidity test. 
Usually, I buy Sunita extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic olive oil.  However, we're long overdue for a wholesale food order, so I had to make do and purchase this from our local Sainsbury's.  

It's cold-pressed and unfiltered, so there's a powdery residue at the bottom of the glass bottle.  The colour is beautifully green, and when I popped the lid, the first thing I noticed was the rich green smell.  Just like olives.  Which is reassuring, to say the least!  

Did it pass the test? 
  1. There's definitely an IOC certificate, though it's blurred in the photograph above.
  2. It was flammable.  I tried to light it [in the kitchen sink, sans children]... It worked!
  3. After being in the refrigerator overnight, this olive oil thickened and maintained a texture similar to molasses, as well as displaying a slight wisp of cloudiness.
I think it's safe to say that this particular olive oil, though not organic, is what it claims to be. Which is a great thing, because I use it for everything: salad dressings, cooking, frying, baking.  Sometimes I blend it with more expensive unrefined, organic coconut oil; other times I just use it on its own.

Use the three steps detailed above and check the authenticity of the olive oil in your cupboard!  You don't want to be fleeced into paying extra-virgin olive oil prices for what actually turns out to be a lesser quality, cheaper oil.  For more information about olive oil, visit Olive Oil Source.  If you're REALLY into this, you could try reading Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.

For more eco-friendly consumer advice, recipes, and green ideas, visit Beth's blog and follow the links to other bloggers' articles.

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