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DigitalBlue's avatar

If most of the olive oil we buy is "fake," is it even good to eat?

Asked by DigitalBlue (6669 points ) March 20th, 2014

I have read that between 20–70% of the olive oil we buy is fake or “cut” with cheaper oils. If that is true, is it even good for us to eat all of this olive oil?
Should I just save my money and buy something cheaper?

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24 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Worry about the motor oil that has been use to dilute the olive oil.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@DigitalBlue I’d go for a reputable brand that you can trust. If Quaker State or Pennzoil shows up on the label think twice.

elbanditoroso's avatar

It’s not fake, it’s just not as pure as the super-duper ones. It’s not going to harm you.

If you are a cook or a gastronome with an incredibly sensitive palate, you might notice the difference in quality. The average citizen doesn’t have that sort of discrimination, and the difference in taste will not be detectable.

To answer your question – save your money.

In this respect, olive oil is like wine. Expensive is not always good, and few people can tell the difference,

Cruiser's avatar

Thanks for asking this question @DigitalBlue I am passionate about my cooking and what I eat and had very little idea how complex this question on olive oil has become. This web page gives some insight to answering your question and though I have no background to verify it’s accuracy it seems fairly evident in what the olive oil industry has become. I will be ordering some of the Bariani oil to try out.

It reminds me in how most pancake syrup contains zero maple syrup…and if you want real maple syrup you will have to pay 5 times the price for corn syrup.

DigitalBlue's avatar

Well, I didn’t mean it was harmful, but olive oil is kind of sold like the holy grail of healthy oils and I wondered if that became a big fat load of bullshit if it’s actually just vegetable oil in a special bottle.
@Cruiser thanks. I didn’t know that about maple syrup, or, I know the “pancake syrup” or “maple flavored syrup” isn’t the real deal, but real maple isn’t authentic? Or is that what you meant about the corn syrup junk masquerading as the real deal?

Cruiser's avatar

@DigitalBlue I learned this about syrup by attending a Maple Syrup fest in our county this time of year with my Cub Scout den where we learned all about real maple syrup and how to tap a tree and make maple syrup. I was frankly surprised to learn this and next time you are at the store syrups are only allowed to use the word “Maple” if it contains maple syrup and you will see 90% of syrups do not use maple on their label and some with us “maple flavor” on the label and read the ingredients and low and behold maple is not one of them. I am sensing a similar dodge taking place in the olive oil industry.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cruiser I inherited a client that was kind of shady. He bought maple syrup out of Canada, then cut it with cheap corn syrup and sold it as “Maple Product”. And it was legal. I love real maple syrup.

ibstubro's avatar

All I can say, @DigitalBlue, is that you probably do not want to look into honey if you’re concerned about food fraud.

Americans think the USDA is guaranteeing our food supply, but in reality they watch meat and make home loans.

Seafood? Pshaw! Regulation be damned. Look at the statistics of how much seafood is miss-identified.

jarogers80's avatar

Honestly, I know that olive oil is supposed to be good for you, but I consume it because of the flavor. If you are looking for an alternative, try grapeseed oil. It has nutrients, flavor and a good reputation.

Cruiser's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I made my own real syrup after what I learned from my Maple Fest outings and I could not handle the sweetness as it made my tooth fillings hurt! OMG real maple syrup is SWEET but sooooo yummy!

filmfann's avatar

Most of the olive oil is mislabeled, not fake.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is from the first pressing of the olives. The second time they squeeze the olives, it is Virgin Olive Oil. It goes downhill in quality from there, but it is still olive oil.
Many of the Extra Virgins are from the 2nd or 3rd pressing, but they are still olive oil.

Haleth's avatar

@filmfann It seems like the tastiest EVOO has a greenish color. It reminds you of the olives it came from. I drizzle them on salad or dip bread in them. The cheaper ones have more of a golden color and those are the ones I cook with.

Blackberry's avatar

@Haleth Yeah, that’s the stuff you see at a nice restaurant with the green herbs in there. So good.

zenvelo's avatar

The fake olive oil is high production olive oil from Italy, especially the south, not the small boutique olive oils harvested, pressed, and bottled by reputable farms in Tuscany or Liguria. So if you buy an Italian olive oil someplace like Williams Sonoma, it’s legit.

And the fake olive oil issue has to do with Italian, because it went for a premium. Spanish, French, and Greek olive oils aren’t rated as highly, so the counterfeiters haven’t set up operations outside of Italy.

jca's avatar

NY Times had a graphic thing a few months ago about counterfeit olive oil. It’s too late now but I’ll try to find it tomorrow, unless someone else wants to try. Go to NY Times site and search for olive oil. According to them, the majority of olive oil is doctored with other, cheaper oils.

jca's avatar

Here it is: Extra Virgin Suicide: The Adulteration of Italian Olive Oil.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/01/24/opinion/food-chains-extra-virgin-suicide.html

ucme's avatar

Popeye loved to lick on Olive Oil, swallowed her it like a man.

ibstubro's avatar

Very cool, @jca. Like Italian olive oil 101. Much the same as I was given to understand, but in a quick, concise format.

The olive oil I’m using is probably garbage, but it smells so nice when I heat it.

trailsillustrated's avatar

The greener the oil the more virgin it is. For some reason, olive oil is cheap here and so is pure maple syrup. I use grapeseed oil for everything.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

The proof is in the tasting. Period.

ibstubro's avatar

Where ya been, @SecondHandStoke?

Smell counts for a lot, too.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^ Smelling is obviously part of the tasting process.

ibstubro's avatar

I have a better smeller than I have a taster, anymore.

I don’t understand why they are not required to list the proper contents on the ingredient panel?

SecondHandStoke's avatar

I don’t particularly like doing it but you sample olive oil the way you would evaluate fine beer or wine:

Asses it’s color, take in it’s bouquet, follow with shooting and savoring it’s flavor.

Personally I don’t like the most virgin and fragrant oils. I find their flavors to be distracting in cooking.

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