MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS USE OLIVE OIL. . .

nina | August 17th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Olive oil, produced from the fruit of the olive tree, dates back to ancient times. In recent years, it has become a more sought-after part of the American diet for its flavor and health benefits.

Celebrity and television chefs, who seems to use ” EVOO” or extra virgin olive oil in just about everything, and the Mediterranean diet have helped increase the oil’s popularity among foodies and non-foodies alike.

More than 50 percent of U.S. households use olive oil, up from 30 percent five years ago, according to the North American Olive Oil Association in Neptune, N.J. Americans consume an average of 1 liter of olive oil per year.

Naturally, anything that’s in demand globally and can be high-priced is a target for unscrupulous people who want to cash in and deceive the public.

Olive oil is the top food when it comes to fraud. The fraud can be anything from the substitution of Greek olive oil for Italian olive oil to the addition of cheaper oils such as corn, hazelnut and palm oil.

Food adulteration is usually more of a way for the seller to increase profits and deceive consumers and traders than it is a food safety issue.

In the case of olive oil, if non-edible oils are being used, that could be a food safety issue as well. It’s very doubtful that major brands of oil would sell adulterated products, as they would be risking too much.

In 20 years of testing through an independent quality control program, the North American Olive Oil Association reports that brands identified with adulterated products represent less than 2 percent market share in U.S. retail.

Another problem is the labeling of cheaper olive oil as “extra virgin” when it’s not. About 60 percent of olive oil sold at retail is extra virgin, and the rest is olive oil or light-tasting olive oil.

Extra virgin is the highest quality grade of olive oil under standards by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s voluntary standards. In addition to certain acidity levels, extra virgin must also meet flavor and aroma criteria.

When evaluating over 186 oils. Most of them had flavor defects such as rancidity. It has only been in a relatively recent era where there is a lot of quality olive oil suddenly available. It’s theoretically easy to make olive oil. There are all kinds of ways the quality can get messed up down the line.

When people taste an actual extra virgin olive oil for the first time, they see that it often smells grassy and has a sensation of freshness, it is a real eye opener.

Good advice – always look for a harvest date on the label and the bottle. Olive oil is a natural product, and the fresher the better. We are not used to thinking of it that way.

Olive oil should be consumed within 15 months of harvest. If you can’t find a harvest date, look for a “best by” date.

Olive oil should be stored where it is not exposed to light in a cabinet or closet.

California produces only about 3 percent of the olive oil consumed in the U.S.  All products produced in the U.S. are “very good” picks.

Source:  theledger.com, 8.14.12

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