Olive oil fraud? Believe it or not, many oils sold as “olive” are really just colored soybean oil! Ask yourself – Is Your Olive Oil Really Made of Olives?
It sounds paranoid in a nice, safely-regulated by the FDA world, doesn’t it? I mean, if something says it’s olive oil on the package, it must be! If it were actually something else, that would be false advertising, right? And that never happens!
If only that were true.
When I learned there was a possibility that olive oils might not truly be olive oils, I was disturbed, but knew it might be true. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of foods being labelled fraudulently – in a college journalism class, I followed a series on “honey laundering” written up in a now-defunct Seattle newspaper (I can’tcite my original sources, since the paper folded, but here’s another article on the same topic). Apparently, some of the honey in the grocery store that was manufactured overseas is actually just corn syrup – and even a few illegal food additives. Some of the fraud was discovered because the honey was being produced in countries where there isn’t much of a honeybee population, either because of the altitude or the climate.
How can you get honey without any bees? You can’t. It’s not honey – and even though some of the honey in grocery stores is legitimate, it’s so difficult to verify what is and isn’t real that I’ve switched to buying local honey only.
Obviously, I can’t buy local olive oil – so there has to be a way to verify that it’s really made from olives. I first learned about olive oil fraud from this cute video by MamaNatural. Fortunately, within the video, she also discusses how to identify true olive oil.
One option is to buy Californian olive oil, which is much easier to track, and much more pure. However, it’s also harder to obtain. I’m in the middle of rural Ohio – the closest Trader Joe’s (or anything like it) is hours away. I need a genuine olive oil I can find in a major retailer.
Thankfully, there’s another option: Look for the little seal on the bottle indicating that it’s certified by the International Olive Oil Council (seen in the picture below).
This little seal guarantees authenticity – with more credibility than just the ingredients listed on the label (if you’ve read up on product labelling, I’m sure you know what I mean – it’s amazing how many ingredients *do not* have to be listed!)
I was happy to find that, among the dozens of varieties of olive oil on the store shelves, the certified olive oil was not the most expensive. It wasn’t the cheapest, either (the store brand of dyed pseudo-oil won that prize), but it was pretty middle of the road. And, since it came in a bulk size, I was able to save a little more money by stocking up on it and getting the big jug. If you can’t find real olive oil near you, there’s always ordering it online!
Just like any other food choice, it’s important to make sure you’re making wise decisions with your olive oil purchases. Be aware of the fakes - and look for authenticity!