If you’re new here, you may want to sign up for FREE weekly updates delivered to your inbox featuring Real Food recipes, nutritionk, and health articles, and the latest in sustainable agriculture, food politics, and philosophy.
Did you know that the Mob makes money hand over fist by selling you fake olive oil? Olive oil is a $1.5 billion industry in the United States alone. According to Tom Mueller, an intrepid journalist who wrote a scandalously revealing book on the subject, 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold is adulterated — cut with cheaper oils. Apparently, the mob’s been at it so long, that even most so-called “experts” can’t tell a real olive oil from a fake olive oil based on taste alone.
If you were a producer of one of these fake oils, 2008 was a bad year for you. That’s the year that more than 400 Italian police officers conducted a lengthy investigation dubbed “Operation Golden Oil” which led to the arrest of 23 people and the confiscation of 85 farms. It was quickly followed up by another investigation in which more than 40 additional people were arrested for for adding chlorophyll to sunflower and soybean oil and selling it as extra virgin olive oil, both in Italy and abroad.
The prevalence of these and other similar raids actually prompted the Australian government’s standards agency to allow olive oil brands to voluntarily submit their oils for lab tests. These authentication tests allow oils to be certified pure “extra-virgin olive oil.” Thus far in 2012, every imported brand of extra-virgin olive oil has failed the test to gain certification!
Last year, researchers at UC Davis tested 124 different samples from eight major brands of extra-virgin olive oil. More than seventy percent of the imported oils failed.
After reading these news stories last year, I was utterly intrigued when Tom Mueller’s tell all book finally came out. It took me months to get around to reading it, but when I did I couldn’t put the page-turner down. And the evidence? The evidence is damning.
In Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, Mr. Mueller exposes the inner workings of the olive oil industry, which has fallen prey to hi-tech, industry-wide fraud.
Authentic extra-virgin olive oil, he says, takes a lot of time, expense, and labor to make. On the flip side, it’s quick, cheap, and easy to doctor it.
The most common form of adulteration comes from mixing extra virgin olive oil with cheaper, lower-grade oils. Sometimes, it’s an oil from an altogether different source — like canola oil or colza oil. Other times, they blend extra virgin olive oil with a poorer quality olive oil. The blended oil is then chemically deodorized, colored, and possibly even flavored and sold as “extra-virgin” oil to a producer. In other words, if you find a major brand name olive oil is fake, it probably isn’t the brand’s fault. Rather, it’s their supplier’s.
Mueller’s book is deeply engaging, reading like a typical suspense novel or crime drama rather than a news story. His engrossing way with words sucks you in from page one and doesn’t let you go until you reach the back cover.
If you want the full, gripping, true story behind the olive oil racketeering, I highly recommend you buy and read Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.