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Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

The three key parameters, FFA, Peroxide value, and C18-1 (Oleic acid) levels have not been changed as far as I know. The IOOC stipulates a maximum FFA level of .8, maximum peroxide value of 20, and minimum C18-1 percentage of 55%. If these parameters have not been raised or changed then the standards are largely unchanged. In addition, if the issue of shelf life and "best by dates" is not addressed, there is no need to look any further. All that a bottler needs to do is pass the test at the time the oil is bottled. Most bottlers, including the California producers listed in this study put an expiration or "best by date" on their bottle that is meaningless. Two year expiration dates are commonplace, and I've seen three year expiration dates. I just made a trip to Costco to purchase a 2/pk of the plastic jug of organic olive oil that passed the test. The oil is packed in clear PET. This oil is already at least seven to eight months old. While it is not "defective" by IOOC standards, from a sensory standpoint it is clearly awful tasting and probably one of the most unbalanced bitter oils I have ever tasted. It is overwhelmingly made from Spanish Picual olives in spite of it's label that lists Italian olive first and Spanish olives second. It's stamped on the back, "Best by September 2011." There is no way that this oil will keep for another year in this package. The old standards need to be junked and not simply reformed. I admit that I have become cynical and have pretty much given up on looking to the USDA for meaningful reform.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

There is no way to tell without knowing the specific harvest date of each oil tested. The PL and big brands from Europe almost never include a harvest date because more often than not, they are a combination of years and seasons. Only estate oils generally include or post on their label a harvest date. And in spite of what many of them post, as an expiration date, no olive oil is better when it gets older. They all go downhill with age.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

under normal conditions (climate etc..) 70-75% of the crop in the NH is 'in the tank' by the first week in January and in Tuscany and Northern Italy, 90% is done before the end of November.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Glad we are on the same page. Freshness is the key.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

I don't understand the confusion. November 09 til July 10 is over eight months. All oils produced before December 09 are now over eight months old. If they were produced before November they are ten months old. When August comes oils produced in November will be ten months old etc...

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

If the olives are harvested in October, November, and December then they are now if harvested in October nine months old, If in November eight months old and if in December seven months old. Most of the California oils are finished before Christmas. The harvest looks like a bell curve with the peak in November. From mid November 09 till today is over eight months.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Thank you for pointing out that the C18-1 was posted on another page and I missed it. This is a positive element and should be on the front page. Oils with high oleic and high poly's generally have longer shelf life. Low poly's and low oleic acid or C18-1 mean shorter shelf life. Durability is a key component when determining quality.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

I have not studied them in depth but the primary parameters have not changed. FFA must be below .8, Peroxide value less than 20. Polyphenol counts are not part of the codex of standards, and C-181 or Oleic acid levels must be between 55 and 83. These are the key indicators of quality. They have not changed.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

That is the difference between grapes and olives. In general, oil harvest is finished in California before Christmas. There are always exceptions.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

The season begins in November and is generally finished by the end of January in Europe. In California, It will begin as early as October and is generally finished before the end of December.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

I buy Bariani too and I think they got a raw deal. I'm a fan. The high density Arb. I was referring to (above) were the 2 passing low poly Calif oils.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

in addition, none of the oils tested and characterized as 'imports" were from Olive oil producers. All of these oils are fabricated by bottlers and blenders, not growers. All of the California oils selected and tested were estate produced by growers. This is like comparing Gallo jug burgundy wine to Silver Oak estate Cabernet. The jug oils that dominate US supermarket shelves are NOT representative of European estate producers of a similar size and scale as the California ones. The problem is not European growers or producers. It's the bottlers and blenders who dominate the International olive oil market & the IOOC standards. A clear distinction should be made between these two groups. If you think that I am in any way supportive of this group that was outed, you are mistaken. We have been at war with the NAOOA and the IOOC over the river of defective olive oil flooding the US market for years and have begged the USDA, COOC, and anyone and everyone who would listen, to do something about it.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

No. I am talking about the IOOC standards that California has adopted which are basically identical to the ones the Federal government is about to adopt.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

...and we are in the process of refuting the accuracy of the report and test results based on many other factors, (such as the Oleic acid results being left out) which is a “shelf life” relevant chemical measurement that was not shown at all: The oleic acid measurement known as C18-1 is part of the IOOC, COOC and California codex of standards. Who decided to leave this very important measurement out of the published results? This measurement, more than any other, provides evidence about the shelf life and durability of the oil

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Thanks. I agree with point #1. Noted and very much appreciated. In terms of point #2, hopefully this has been demonstrated below and in ensuing discussions about how this test was financially promoted and backed by study participants.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

I wouldn't recommend buying anything that was produced in California right now as it is all going on eight or nine months old. Those California Arbequina high density oils that had horribly low Polyphenol levels and climbing peroxide levels (see test) in March are now most likely rancid and they are still on our grocery shelves and with added fervor no less, thanks to this report. To make things even more complicated, you should know that all Northern Hemisphere olive oil (today) is at least eight months old from production date (which was the reason behind the oil being selected and tested in March) This agenda, coupled with the selection process was clearly subjective. Believe it or not, the flunking California Barini had much higher polyphenols, than any of the CORE, Corto or Lucero samples and was much more in line with McEvoy from a chemical standpoint (even in terms of peroxide). It failed, not based on chemistry but only on an organolpetic basis... The polyphenols decrease as the oil ages and oxidizes and both Corto (82 Poly and below) and CORE (109 Poly and below) came in low already in this test in March.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

We do own a mill in Tunisia which represents the SMALLEST amount of oil that we import. We are currently importing from the Southern Hemisphere because the oil is just being produced now and it is the freshest in the world. All Northern hemisphere oil is at least eight months old now (including the passing California oils) still sitting on the shelf in our grocery markets. We do not have an agenda other than educating and promoting fresh, quality olive oil irregardless of origin.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

By sheer nature of the FACT that this study was financially backed in part, by CORE and Corto, the two samples (their own), in the least, were chosen completely on a subjective basis. I don't know how this key factor can not be considered anything but subjective sampling. A study is not viable when the test subjects involved represent its financiers. Lucero, CORE, Corto, Bariani and McEvoy are all single estate produced and milled olive oils. A broad based comparison has been made between imported, mixed bath tub oil and single estate produced California oil and the reader is left with the impression that imports are bad and that California oil is good. This could not be further from the truth. Once again, it has not a thing to do with where, but when and how.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Nope. I work for an olive oil company based out of Oakland California. People (including the Tunisian Olive Oil lobbyists) have repeatedly posted our chemistry note which is proven to be an invaluable tool in terms of olive oil chemistry education. Unlike others, we place little emphasis on appellation when it comes to olive oil and would rather educate.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

The subject is extremely complicated. Attempts to provide a simple solution to very complex condition and situation will necessarily end in unsatisfactory results.

The IOOC standards are a joke, and not a very funny one if you are involved in the business of trying to produce quality extra virgin olive oil and a decent living at the same time anywhere in the world . The IOOC standards recently endorsed by the COOC, the State of California, and the Feds, in the words of Christian Gertz, (the German chemist responsible for promoting newer more sophisticated testing methods that catch some of the shenanigans uncovered in the Davis report} "a road map and recipe for fraud". It is not simply the testing methods that are flawed. The definitions, chemical parameters minimum standards, the naming of the grades, lack of meaningful shelf life and durability standards, etc etc. The IOOC is a trade organization that represents the interests of its member countries and those countries represent the interests of their olive oil industries. Virtually all of the refined oil in the world is produced by member countries of the IOOC and they are not interested in having this category defined reasonably or properly. If consumers world wide actually understood the meaning of the words, 100% Pure Olive Oil, or Lite Olive Oil, there would be a revolution in consumption in favor of extra virgin olive oil and the cost benefit reward for producing the authentic article would shift in a way that would benefit all producers of high quality extra virgin olive oil in the world. Very few Americans understand that over 60% of all the olive oil consumed in countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy is refined olive oil. The naming of the grades is intentionally deceptive. There is no nice way to put it. The allowable chemical parameters like FFA, and Peroxide values are ridiculously high. Even in third world countries like Tunisia where small farmers pick the fruit by hand and sometimes carry their produce by wagon and mule or pick up truck to the mills one can easily achieve an FFA measurement of .5 and peroxide values of less than 10 at production. Modern high efficent farms and mills easily reach FFA levels below .25 and PV levels of less than 6 on a routine basis. Oils with dramatically different shelf life, nutrition, chemical composition, and taste end up with the same grade. There is no way to tell one from the other unless you have laboratory at home or you learn how to tell the difference between fresh well made oil and what passes as EVO according to the standards created and sanctioned by the member countries whose industries produce the substandard oil.

The standards are written to support an industry that is in the business of producing refined olive oil. It is not in the interest of these refineries to clarify the grades or to educate consumers. We've adopted their standards and joined their club. When asked at the 2008 American Oil Chemist Society why The COOC was encouraging California to adopt IOOC rules and standards, the then President of the California Olive Oil Council and President of California Olive Ranch, responded with one word, "POLITICS". Mr Green later clarified his position by explaining that the NAOOA, (North American Olive Oil Association) had made it clear that they would block any attempts by COOC to create standards that were not in complete agreement with their own.

Wealthy individuals like McEvoy don't have to be competitive or even make a profit producing their outrageously expensive extra virgin olive oil. McEvoy herself has said as much in early interviews about why she decided to get in the Olive oil business in the first place. This observation is not a slam on McEvoy's olive oil. It happens to be one of the best oils made in the US on a consistent basis, and she has done a great deal to educate and promote high quality olive oil... But if California growers and producers are ever to become significant players in the olive oil industry worldwide we have to get serious as producers and not simply make good olive oil but do it efficiently and competitively. Anyone can make good olive oil if they have sound ripe fruit. The difficulty is making good olive oil at a competitive price. A good portion of the reason why prices are so low is that the standards for the grade are in the toilet and extra virgin is competing with refined olive oil and cannot possibly do it fairly. They are two completely different substances that have nothing in common except that they come from an olive. Refined olive oil has much more in common with canola or soybean oil but sells, on an industrial level for nearly the same price as EVO. These disparities in understanding and grades distort the market and make it nearly impossible for quality extra virgin to be recognized and priced fairly for what it is. This does not mean, like many California producers assert, that great olive oil costs 10.00 /500 ml to produce and make a profit. The best oil I tasted this year was produced at a profit for less than 2.00 /500ml in bulk and 3.00 bottled and packaged. That's a long way from 35.00. There is no doubt that California can and will become a real player in the big leagues if the spirit that has defined American farming and enterprise takes the lead. But if we resort to the tactics of the corrupt industry and adopt their standards and practices we will remain at a distinct disadvantage. The way forward is up. Raise the standards so that they make sense. Join with the quality minded producers world wide not in the business of refining olive oil and create standards that reward quality on the basis of discernible chemical and sensory attributes not driven by chauvinistic impulses that in the end destroy our credibility and promote enmity between should be allies.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Not true. The subjectively chosen California brands (CORE, Corto, McEvoy & Bariani-which failed based on an 'organoleptic' measure only) and the name of the study itself, "Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin”olive oil often fails international and USDA standards" is a clear indication as to how the reader and the general public are intended to respond to this study. CORE, Corto and Bariani are NOT mass-market brands in the same way that STAR, Bertoli and some of the other chosen International samples are.

Jul 25, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

July 24, 2010... The Olive Oil Wars...

In war, the first casualty is the truth. Aeschylus

If one takes the time to decipher the data in the recent report published by the University of California at Davis and concludes, as the report strongly suggests, that olive oil produced in California is generally superior to olive oil produced elsewhere by nature of provenance, one must come to the study possessing a strong inclination towards self deception. Where olive oil is made is far less significant in determining quality than When, What, and How it is made. If one does not know the other more important variables, knowing where is less than useless, and is more often than not used as a ploy to make unsupportable self-serving claims. Provenance has its place, even in olive oil, but in this report it is clearly and intentionally misplaced. Lousy olive oil, as well as great olive oil, can be produced just about anywhere the olive tree flourishes. In fact, if one follows generally accepted practices and procedures it is difficult to make poor quality olive oil when crushing sound fruit. The real villain is the IOOC, NAOOA,(and now recently adopted and embraced by the COOC and unfortunately by the State of California) (sub) standards. They, (IOOC standards) encourage the production and sale of second rate olive oil. Period! They are outdated, absurdly low, and based on a pass of fail grading system. McEvoy gets the same grade as Costco's plastic jug. There are great olive oils being produced all over the world that cannot compete with the dregs that dominate supermarket shelves everywhere in the world and not just the US. Producers of quality olive oil all over the world are victimized every bit as much as this tiny group of pampered California producers. Throwing the quality minded producers of the world under the bus with the sleazeballs outed in this report is foolish, self-centered, counterproductive, and will create enemies of those we should be forming alliances with. Great idea that is long overdue. Pitiful execution. No cigar.

<posted on behalf of Mike Bradley>

We thought this might also be helpful:

---OLIVE OIL CHEMISTRY ESSENTIALS: What You Should Know--
EXTRA VIRGIN describes a broad category of olive oils and should be viewed as a minimum standard and not an indication of superior quality. While it is true that all high quality olive oil is extra virgin it is equally true that most olive oils labeled EXTRA VIRGIN are not high quality. This is because the chemical and sensory parameters established for the grade are so broad that they include very average and mediocre as well as better qualities. There are no established OBJECTIVE standards for extra virgin olive oil in the United States or the world for that matter. Trade organizations like the IOOC, (International Olive Oil Council) NAOOA, (North American Olive Oil Association), COOC (California Olive Oil Council) are controlled by olive oil producers and not by any independent agency that represents the interests and welfare of the public. While these trade associations publish standards they are absurdly low and seldom if ever enforced. They function primarily as marketing associations for their respective members. In addition, olive oil is perishable and is generally better when it is fresher. Certain critical beneficial attributes like polyphenol levels, antioxidants, flavor and aromas decline over time while undesirable conditions like rancidity, and the formation of free radicals develop. There is a direct correlation between good chemical attributes and nutrition, shelf life, and taste. Olive oil is graded by both its attributes and its defects. Two of the most important POSITIVE chemical attributes are Polyphenol counts, and Oleic acid levels. The two most significant NEGATIVE chemical attributes are Free Fatty Acid levels and Peroxide values. In general, the higher the polyphenols counts and Oleic acid levels the better, and just the reverse for FFA’s and Peroxide values.

OLIVE OIL TERMS
POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES:

POLYPHENOLS - Polyphenol intake has been associated with lower incidence of cancer and coronary heart disease (CHD) . Polyphenols give olive oil its unique taste and improve its shelf life. Some extra virgin olive oils contain far more, (up to 500% more) polyphenols than others. The time of harvest, the variety, the method of extraction, and the management of the grove will affect the phenol count. Processing or refining olive oil destroys the polyphenols in olive oil. Refined olive oils like “pure olive oil”, “lite olive oil”, and “pomace olive oil” have little or no polyphenols, but the same amount of calories. Heat, light, oxygen, and time cause polyphenol levels in olive oil to decline. Unfortunately, olive oil producers are not required to disclose the phenolic content in their olive oil. The polyphenol count is not part of the codex of standards required by the IOOC, NAOOA, or the COOC. As a general rule, the more robust oils have higher phenolic compounds than the milder oils. Olive oils with less than 120 (as expressed by mg/kg) are considered low. Virgin oils with a PPH count between 120 and 220 are considered medium. Olive oils with PPH counts above 220 are considered HIGH in polyphenols. Some of the more intense extra virgin olive oils will contain levels as high as 500.

OLEIC ACID – OMEGA-9 monounsaturated fat is found at varying concentrations in virgin olive oil. It is believed to lower the risk of heart attack (CHD), arteriosclerosis, and cancer. Virgin olive oils containing higher levels of OLEIC ACID tend to be more stable and hold up longer. In this sense high oleic acid tends to act as a natural preservative. Oleic acid is measured in olive oil as a percentage. The levels range from 55% to 80%+. Extra virgin oils with low oleic acid levels and low polyphenol counts will have a markedly reduced shelf life.

SOME NEGATIVE INDICATORS:

In this case less is more.
FREE FATTY ACIDS - FFA is the measurement of free fatty acids in olive oil. In a sense the FFA level is an indicator of the condition of the fruit at the time the oil was extracted. It’s like a freshness quotient. When olives begin to decompose the level of free fatty acid increases. Fruit on the tree decays at a slower rate than fruit that has been removed from the stem. Once the fruit has been picked or the skin is broken the fruit decomposes at an accelerated pace. Ripeness plays a large role in the level of FFA’s. Over ripe fruit produces a higher yield of oil to olive by weight but the free fatty acid increases as well. This is why there is so much substandard olive oil produced. Farmers are rewarded by a higher yield if they allow the fruit to become over ripe. FFA’s increase over time. Many olive oils that are close to the limit at the time of bottling become defective and outside the allowable limits soon after they are bottled or opened. When olive oil is exposed to air, light, or heat decomposition increases until the oil is unfit for human consumption. Rancid oil is harmful and a source of free radicals. Olives that are crushed within 24 hours of picking will generally produce a higher grade of extra virgin olive oil provided the quality of the fruit and accepted methods of extraction are followed. Though difficult, it is possible to crush the fruit within hours after picking. Some farms have a mill on or close to the the groves and manage to crush the olives within a few hours after picking. Fruit that is picked at the optimum level of ripeness and crushed within hours of picking will have much lower FFA and peroxide levels. In some cases as much as ten times lower than the IOOC standard. It is entirely reasonable to expect that sound olives crushed in a timely fashion will produce oil with an FFA level of .28% or less. Extra virgin olive oils with FFA levels above .35% should not be considered premium extra virgin olive oil. The IOOC allows an olive oil to be graded as extra virgin and have a FFA level of .8%. The COOC allows the oil to have an FFA level of .5% and still be graded as extra virgin.

PEROXIDES - Peroxides are naturally occurring compounds in all edible oils. They are essentially a measurement of rancidity or oxidation. In the case of peroxides and olive oil, less is more. Peroxide values increase over time and are indicators of the level of oxidation at the time of processing and increase according to storage conditions. Poor storage conditions will cause rapid oxidation and rancidity. The more oxygen, light and heat the oil is exposed to the faster the oil will become rancid. Olive oil keeps far better in bulk than in tiny glass or clear plastic containers. High peroxide levels are an indication of poor processing practices, substandard fruit condition, old age, improper storage or any combination of these negative conditions. The IOOC rules state that (IOOC codex) extra virgin olive oils must show peroxides value under 20. (Expressed as meq O2/kg)

Jul 24, 2010
evoochick in Food Media & News