Olive Oil, the good, the bad and the downright awful
Yesterday was olive oil demo. I honestly have never seen so many bottles of olive oil of all different shapes and sizes, and price.
Olive oil production goes back a very long time. The olive was native to Asia Minor and spread from Syria, Iran, and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean approximately 6,000 years ago. They are among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world – being grown before written language was invented! Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2,000 years BC. The olive culture was spread to the early Greeks then Romans. As the Romans extended their “kingdom” they brought the olive with them.
Like the grape, the Christian missionaries brought the olive tree with them to the U.S. and California for food but also for use in ceremonies. Olive oil was used to anoint the early kings of the Greeks and Jews. The Greeks anointed their winning athletes. Olive oil has also been used to anoint the dead in many cultures.
But coincidentally I read an article (Thanks Evin) about fake extra virgin olive oil in the U.S. Apparently 69% of all shop bought olive oil is fake!! Olive oil is diluted with poor quality oils or sometimes there is no real olive oil in it at all. Cheap and unhealthy soy or canola oils are coloured with industrial chlorophyll and flavoured with artificial flavourings. Truly delicious.
Darina spoke of a cloudy appearance that happens when olive oil goes below a certain temperature. This, apparently is the best, but not foolproof way of discerning if your EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) is the real thing. If it doesn’t become cloudy at cold temperatures, you definitely don’t have olive oil. If it does this means you may have olive oil. Monounsaturates solidify at cold temeratures. Turning solid will tell you that you have a mostly a monounsaturated oil, but it won’t rule out whether it’s sunflower, safflower, or canola oils have been added. It won’t reveal if your olive oil has been tainted with chemicals, flavourings, or colourings either. So much for looking after your health. Although the majority of these revelations have come from America, rest assured it happens over in this part of the world also.
To be fair to the poor growers, who realistically are probably getting a TINY amount of money for their work and effort, the adulteration of the product comes at the middle man stage. In 2012, two Spanish businessmen were sentenced to two years in prison in Cordoba for selling hundreds of thousands of litres of supposedly extra virgin olive oil that was, in fact, a mixture of 70-80% sunflower oil and 20-30% olive. And I am not sure if our Food Safety Authority conduct any tests, as ultimately, as in their opinion, does this fake “olive oil” really harm us? For me yes, it harms my faith, both in the label on the bottle, and the trust I put in the supplier.
My suggestion? Know your supplier. A little like the chickens, except obviously although we want to, we can’t always visit the farm to see where it comes from, we have to have faith in our suppliers.