Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Slippery Business: The Trade in Adulterated Olive Oil

Is this what the "free market" (i.e, profit at all costs) has wrought? That you're getting tons of cheap, inflammatory Omega 6s ( and God knows what else) in what you thought was olive oil?? From the New Yorker:

On August 10, 1991, a rusty tanker called the Mazal II docked at the industrial port of Ordu, in Turkey, and pumped twenty-two hundred tons of hazelnut oil into its hold. The ship then embarked on a meandering voyage through the Mediterranean and the North Sea. By September 21st, when the Mazal II reached Barletta, a port in Puglia, in southern Italy, its cargo had become, on the ship’s official documents, Greek olive oil. It slipped through customs, possibly with the connivance of an official, was piped into tanker trucks, and was delivered to the refinery of Riolio, an Italian olive-oil producer based in Barletta. There it was sold—in some instances blended with real olive oil—to Riolio customers...

The investigators also discovered where Ribatti’s adulterated oil had gone: to some of the largest producers of Italian olive oil, among them Nestlé, Unilever, Bertolli, and Oleifici Fasanesi, who sold it to consumers as olive oil, and collected about twelve million dollars in E.U. subsidies intended to support the olive-oil industry. (These companies claimed that they had been swindled by Ribatti, and prosecutors were unable to prove complicity on their part.)

In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” one investigator told me.)...

Read more here.


mrpaul said...

I love using olive oil. Unfortunately, for a long time I was making the mistake of buying lousy oil. Now I realize the oil has to be sold in a dark glass bottle. It also needs to be organic and cold pressed and unfiltered (so it looks a little cloudy). The olive oil should also come from a small estate to help insure it's made the right way.

Anonymous said...

I'm really careful about the oils I use. I always worry about cooking temperature/smoking point/rancidity, and for this reason, only cook with coconut oil or clarified butter. I rarely cook with olive oil - usually I just drizzle it on cold or steamed vegetables. But I never really thought about my olive oil being adulterated with cheap nut oils! Does anyone have an olive oil brand to recommend that they really trust?



VN Dalmia said...

Read the dates. This story relates to 1991! Things are not half as bad now. The EU follows quality standards laid down by the International Olive Council, Spain and all exports from the EU are meticulously checked for quality and labeling by EU Customs.

Unfortunately, sales inside the EU are not subject to the same checks. Hence, adulteration is easier.

Turkey is not yet part of the EU. Hazelnut Oil adulteration of Olive Oil is an unfortunate occurrence.

VN Dalmia said...

Further, Extra Virgin (EV), organic or otherwise,unfiltered or otherwise isn't great to cook with and that's a well known fact. Use EV raw for salad dressings or condiments or dips. EV is flavorful, its a waste to use it for cooking.

Use Pure Olive Oil or Extra Light Olive Oil or Olive Pomace Oil to cook with. All are blends of refined olive oil with EV. All are light, neutral and easily adapt to cooking requirements. All have the same beneficial fat composition, high Mono-unsaturated fats, as EV.

I wouldn't use coconut oil or clarified butter (ghee) to cook with, except occasionally, unless required by the preperation. Both have high Saturated Fats which lead to high triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol).

Anonymous said...

Hi V.N.
Are good quality saturated fats really that bad for you? My accu-doc told me this was a myth and put me on a diet of full-fat raw milk dairy products, pasture raised organic eggs and of course coconut oil and butter. A cholesterol nightmare, one would think, but with the addition of organic veggies, grass-fed meats, whole grains and sprouted grain products. On this diet I had never been so healthy and my cholesterol level was perfect - high on the good cholesterol and low on the bad cholesterol.

Nutrition is such a young science - it's confusing to figure out what studies and advice to follow. I'm still trying to figure out what works best for me but at this point in life also know how to listen to my body.

Anonymous said...

A new extra virgin olive oil is on the market. I know it is the freshest, purest, cleanest, most healthful EVOO available because I personally watch and supervise the process from the time the olive flowers bud on the trees until the oil is put in the can. Independent lab tests are available to any customer to prove quality--acidity 0.17%, peroxide value 6, polyphenols 165ppm, etc. and food safety tests are available to prove cleanliess and purity. I can not find any other seller who backs his or her oil to that degree and with absolute certainty of independent lab tests. No web site yet, but you can email kretareserve@cox.net. Thanks. Tony Sansone, Kreta Reserve Extra Vigin Olive Oil.

Anonymous said...

Just have to take exception to the comments here: 1. You should always cook with the best quality extra virgin olive oil EVOO you can find. Use medium heat to fry. EVOO will leave a beautiful finish on anything fried in it. The taste of food fried in quality oil is just leaps and bounds ahead of frying in lesser quality EVOOs. 2. Any oil heated to the smoking point or super high heat is not good for you. There is no legit reason to cook food in super heated oil. 3. Frying in clarified butter and coconut oil is not healthy. EVOO is a healthy fat so if you can stand the calories, the fats and antioxidants in EVOO are super healthy for your heart and cardio-vascular system. The net is full of legit studies that document how healthy EVOO is for you. On medium heat, EVOO can be reused several times. When finished frying fish on medium heat, for example, strain the oil through a coffee filter and reuse it to fry fish several more times. Does not lose flavor and health value. Cuts the cost factor too. 3. Adulteration of oil is going on right now as you read this whenever you read this. Period. There is no way the law in the olive producing countries can catch all the crooks. When you send oil out of the EU, you give a sample to customs, but no one checks what is being sent against the sample. Oil is shipped from Italy to other countries as one product and comes out of the other country as EVOO. 4. Pomace oil is made by using the chemical hexane to extract the last bit of oil in the previously pressed olive paste. Look up hexane and tell me if you want to eat oil made with it. Light oil is just bad grade olive oil that has been highly refined and has no healthful value. Do you really want to trust the third world factory that processes olive oils that can not be sold in their present state? Keep an eye out for my forthcoming web site for Kreta Reserve EVOO. I am in the process of doing independent lab tests on the most popular brands of EVOO avaible here in the USA. Will post the tests on my forthcoming web site so all can choose the EVOO they prefer. Mine is a great EVOO. There are other good EVOOs out there. But there a lot of not so good EVOOs and olive oils out there too. I just want a level playing field to compete and independent lab tests level the playing field. Thanks for reading.

Unknown said...

Nice Post
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Anonymous said...