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Olive oil scams are the shocking underbelly of the majority of brands you will find on the shelves.
Not just the cheap products you find at Stop and Shop and other large commercial supermarkets - but worse yet...
Brands representing themselves as elite, gourmet, hand-crafted estate grown artisan creations are well-represented among the offenders!
When you spend between $100.00 and $250.00 per gallon for what is represented as the best first cold-pressed, extra virgin organic olive oil, and upwards of 40% of it is cheapo hazelnut oil that is actually BAD for you, that's a scam, wouldn't you say!?
'Impossible - how can they get away with that?' you may ask.
Let us count the ways...
Imagine 2200 TONS of hazelnut oil surreptitiously making its way from a port in Turkey. By the time it reaches Barletta, a port in southern Italy, the documents now list the cargo as Greek olive oil. Perhaps a customs official has some extra money for a little vacation...
The Mediterranean region is well-known for its balmy climate. Can you imagine what happens to that hazelnut oil as it sits in the warm hold of the tanker? **Note the length of time stated in the article below, that hazelnut oil remained in the tanker - close to 6 weeks!
Pumped into tank trucks, the so-called 'Greek olive oil' ends up at Riolio, an Italian producer. Some, but not all, is mixed with real olive oil and ALL of it is sold as fancy Italian olive oil!
Profits from this shady business were comparable to those from cocaine trafficking, says this eye-opening article from New Yorker magazine (new window).
One huge impediment to exposing olive oil scams is that some companies have so much government connection and political clout that they are IMMUNE to any investigation...
How can olive oil scams completely fool you?
Here's the inside story...
First, the cheaters add enough beta carotene to hazelnut, soy or other oil to give it a more mellow, rich, full-bodied flavor.
A touch of industrial-grade chlorophyll gives that lovely greenish tint characteristic of first cold-pressed, extra virgin oil from green olives.
If the manufacturer is particularly generous, they mix in a small percentage of the real thing. This gives a more convincing taste experience to the unwitting consumer.
Another tactic is to cut first cold-pressed, extra virgin with second, third or fourth pressing olive oil.
In the old days, low grade olive oil was relegated to non-culinary uses - such as fuel for oil lamps!
Now, we are fooled into eating it, while paying gourmet prices for the privilege!
The very best strategy is twofold...
1 - Learn how to taste-test any olive oil you buy.
2 - Find an olive oil producer with impeccable integrity and passionate dedication to providing the absolute finest quality oil possible.
You may be so used to the taste of adulterated olive oil that you don't even have a point of reference to evaluate quality. The most tell-tale sign of inferior olive oil is an unpleasant acrid, burning aftertaste at the very back of your tongue and down the back of your throat after tasting and swallowing it.
In reading various company descriptions of the delightful taste of their olive oils, often I find a comment that goes something like this, '...rich, buttery with a 'peppery finish.'
By using the description of peppery 'finish' in their descriptions, could the companies be misleading people into thinking this is desirable in order to sell an inferior product?
Here's why I ask that question...
That 'peppery' taste, if strong, is a sign of one (or both!) of two problems...
1 - There is rancidity (oxidation and spoilage).
Polyunsaturate-rich nut and seed oils such as soy and hazelnut oils are used to adulterate many so-called 'olive oils.' Seed and nut oils are VERY subject to turning rancid - much more so than olive oil, which is mostly mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Rancidity results in that acrid, burning aftertaste.
2 - A very peppery aftertaste also can mean the acidity is high (lower grade olive oils are more acidic than first cold-pressed extra virgin).
I can't tell you how many olive oils I've tasted over the years (supposedly the BEST) that had a disagreeable 'finish.'
They also had a disconcerting 'second act.' If I ingested a generous amount (more than a tablespoon), invariably the oil popped up again and irritated my esophagus.
Additionally, the more I had consumed, the more tired and out of sorts I would feel afterward. Hmmm...
One quality to look for when you buy olive oil...
The very best olive oils are buttery, rich and luxuriant to the taste, full of life, with very minimal 'peppery' qualities. This is because of their freshness as well as low acid content.
Take time to stop notice the taste of the olive oil YOU use.
Below: Photo of the BEST Olive Oil and My Story of How I Found It!
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