The Dirty Secrets of the Olive Oil Industry16 January 2012
Olive oil adulteration has been a long-standing issue in the olive oil industry. Adulteration, also known as “cutting” is the practice of diluting olive oil by blending it with cheaper, low-quality oils like hazelnut, canola or soybean into olive oil and marketing it as 100% olive oil. Often, this process includes dying and flavoring the cheaper oils so that they look and taste like olive oil. However, the cut product lacks all of the health benefits found in the genuine product.
While many assume that because this practice is wildly illegal, it must have been prevented long ago. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The sad fact is that the FDA simply does not have the resources required to make testing olive oil and preventing adulteration a priority at this time.
This issue is beginning to gain attention from the media as more studies are being conducted and consumers are becoming informed about the corruption occurring. Tom Mueller has been a front runner in some of this research, publishing Slippery Business in the New Yorker in 2007 and his new book Extra Virginity in December, 2011. University of California, Davis has also conducted extensive studies on the authenticity of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on both international and domestic scales. The overwhelming conclusion of these studies is that adulteration is a rampant issue, but often overlooked due to the consumer desire for the “cheapest” product, no matter the consequences.
As a buyer (especially if you are purchasing for food manufacturing purposes), it will be important make sure that the oil that you’re receiving is guaranteed authentic by your supplier. Also, make sure that they can provide documentation to support their claims.
As consumers grow more indignant, this issue will be increasingly in the public eye. It will be helpful for your company to know that is “safe” from any media or FDA involvement in the future by always receiving guaranteed authentic olive oil. To further ensure that you’re getting what you’re paying for, we suggest conducting random sample testing with a chemical analysis company.