Whole Life Magazine

October / November 2016

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Page 15 of 43

I n my New York Times bestselling book Real Food, Fake Food, I examine the many scams, swaps and counterfeits that pervade almost every category of the foods we buy at stores and eat at restaurants. But in the world of Fake Foods, few commonly used items have as colored a track record as extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). A comprehensive study in the Journal of Food Science showed that olive oil was the single most commonly referenced adulterated foodstuff of any type in scholarly arti- cles over a recent 30-year period from 1980-2010. A much publicized 2010 study by the University of Cali- fornia-Davis' Olive Center found that more than two- thirds of imported oils la- beled extra virgin, the high- est possible grade, failed to meet the extra virgin legal requirements. The Olive Center test and subsequent follow-ups it performed on food ser- vice oil and the biggest supermarket brands got widespread media atten- tion, triggering more in- vestigations, including one this year by 60 Minutes. Subsequent studies have had similar results – most recently, the National Consumers League conducted laboratory testing of extra virgins from major Washington, DC area retailers including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Safeway and Giant, and found that 55% was mislabeled. In November, Italian authorities tested the 20 top-selling brands in Italy and found nine to be fraudulent. Just this year, 2000 tons of counterfeit EVOO worth $14.5 million was seized by Italian authorities in one raid – there have been others. In France, where acclaimed Provencal olive oil com- mands high prices, authorities caught smugglers bringing 120 tons of cheaper Spanish olives to Provence to mill and pass off as the genuine article. By midway through 2016, oil scammers were busted from Ghana to Taiwan. In perhaps the most disturbing event of the year, highly re- garded German consumer protection organization Stiftung War- entest tested 26 extra virgins and exactly half, thirteen, failed to meet extra virgin standards. Worse, fi ve were highly pollut- ed with mineral oil hydrocarbons, possibly traceable to motor fumes, along with technical oils. Other oils contained carcino- genic impurities, plasticizers, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and styrene, while pesticides were found in the vast majority (77%). By law, extra virgin olive oil can contain nothing but the juice obtained by pressing olives. The silver lining in this dark cloud is that despite all these horror stories, it is easier than ever for Amer- ican consumers to buy real extra virgin olive oil, in part because of all the scandals. That's important because EVOO is considered the healthiest widely used fat, with proven heart bene- fi ts as well as countless studies suggesting other benefi ts, ranging from an- ti-carcinogen to anti-Alz- heimer properties to better digestion of vitamins. Real high-quality extra virgin also tastes great, and is so much better than low-qual- ity knockoffs that sever- al chefs and experts told me most Americans have never had the good stuff. Once you have tasted superior oil you can't go back, which is why folks in Greece, the highest per capita consumers on earth, literally drink it. The instructor at the Culinary Institute of America responsible for olive oil told me that good EVOO tastes like ripeness, or the sun itself – "it is literally liquid sunshine expressed in fruit." Congress just ordered the FDA to start testing all imported olive oil for both quality and adulteration, a step that could be a huge boon to American consumers when the process begins in 2017. Several states, including Connecticut and California, have passed stricter than Federal olive oil standards, and higher-qual- ity California producers began adding a special seal that con- sumers can look for, California Olive Oil Council (COOC) Certi- fi ed Extra Virgin. High-quality domestic producers in Italy (most olive oil from Italy is not made in Italy, just "bottled" there after being imported, then re-shipped to other countries) have added healthy living The Slippery Slope of Extra Virgin Olive Oil INNOCENCE LOST By Larry Olmsted 16 wholelifetimes.com

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