Report: Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oils Aren’t Extra Virgin

Report: Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oils Arent Extra Virgin | Olive Oil Times

In a report released today, 69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil.

Teams from the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales and the University of California at Davis Olive Center analyzed 14 imported brands and five California brands of extra virgin olive oils from three different regions of California.
See more: UC Davis Report
The two laboratories evaluated the oils based on standards and testing methods established by the International Olive Council (IOC) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as several newer standards and testing methods adopted in Germany and Australia.

The tests found that samples of imported olive oil labeled as “extra virgin” and sold at retail locations in California usually did not meet international and US standards. Sensory tests showed that these failed samples had defective flavors such as rancid, fusty, and musty. Negative sensory results were confirmed by chemical data in 86 percent of the cases.

Report: Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oils Arent Extra Virgin | Olive Oil Times

The IOC and USDA chemistry standards often do not detect defective olive oils that fail extra virgin sensory standards.  The report concluded IOC/USDA standards would be more effective in assessing and enforcing olive oil quality by including another test referred to as the German/Australian DAGs standards which were recently adopted in Germany and Australia to help detect the adulteration of extra virgin olive oils with refined olive oils.  While the IOC/USDA chemistry standards confirmed negative sensory results in only 31 percent of cases, the German/Australian DAGs and PPP standards supported the negative sensory findings in 86 percent of cases.

Of all imported olive oil brands tested only one, Kirkland Organic, was found to pass the sensory tests with all three regional samples collected.  As for the California brands just one, Bariani, exhibited sensory defects sufficient to fail extra virgin sensory standards.

Just one sample, from Safeway’s private label brand, had an acidity level above the .8% extra virgin threshold with a .84 reading, though other imported samples came close to that.  The FFA results for the California oils topped out with a .38 reading for Bariani. The lowest result of all olive oils tested was McEvoy Ranch Organic’s .16 level.  Free fatty acidity is considered a direct measure of the quality of the oil, the lower the number, the better. Factors which lead to a high FFA in olive oil include fruit fly infestation, delays between harvesting and extraction, fungal diseases in the fruit, and careless extraction methods.

All samples were within the IOC/USDA limit for peroxide value (PV).

The chemical testing indicated that the samples failed extra virgin standards for reasons that include one or more of the following:

  • oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging;
  • adulteration with cheaper refined olive oil;
  • poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing flaws, and/or improper oil storage.

See more: UC Davis Report

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This article was last updated November 26, 2014 - 1:38 PM (GMT-5)

  • Alexandra Devarenne

    Thank you UC Olive Center–this study is very timely. It illustrates what trained olive oil tasters have been saying for years, that most of the supermarket “extra virgins” just ain’t. It is particularly telling that of the oils that failed to meet the extra virgin standard, only one managed to fall below the IOC/USDA free fatty acid level. This shows clearly what an unenlightening measurement free acidity is! As far as I can figure, only someone who is truly asleep at the switch will ever have an ffa about about 0.3%.

    It is also very telling that of the failing oils, only 31% failed in the IOC/USDA lab tests, which means the vast majority would have passed… Scary, that. And I say good on the Australians and Germans for working to come up with more meaningful lab tests. Looks like the gold standard is still a trained, recognized taste panel, though. If it smells fusty and it tastes fusty, it must be fusty; it sure ain’t extra virgin!

  • Susan Hermanson

    Does anyone know the controls used in obtaining the oils for this study? Were all the oils in dark glass, similar harvest dates, same location on shelves, same oils from different locations etc?

  • http://bgc.softappstudio.us grahame pratt

    Very interesting and valuable. As a retired mass spectroscopist and olive oil devotee, I was puzzled to see that the scientific tests did not include measurements of optical absorption! I am sure that the average consumer would greatly appreciate classifications of virgin, extra-virgin etc., which describe the colour of the samples. After all, colour is one of the few parameters that the consumer can determine for themselves on the grocery shelf.

    • http://www.BerkeleyOliveGrove.com Darro Grieco

      Olive oil taste panels and competition judges use colored glass vessels because olive oil color is not relevant to excellent olive oil. Color tends to be a product of such things as varietal and harvest time.

      Darro Grieco
      Berkeley Olive Grove 1913

  • ALAN APPLEBAUM

    TURNS OUT THAT THE STUDY DONE BY THE UC OLIVE OIL CTR. WAS FINANCED BY THE CALIFORNIA OLIVE OIL ASSOC. WHICH HAS A VESTED INTEREST IN THE TEST RESULTS. ONE CANNOT ADD CREDENCE TO A FINDING WHERE THE SPONSOR HAS A POTENTIAL FINANCIAL INTEREST IN THE OUTCOME OF THE TESTING. AS FOR THE AUSTRALIAN TEST FINDINGS, I DO NOT KNOW HOW IT WAS FINANCED BUT BASED ON THE US REPORT, CAN ONLY WONDER.

  • Justo

    If the test could be done in Europe on imported California Olive Oils the results could have been pretty similar. Everybody knows that due to long sea transportation, storage and low rotation of imported products in store shelfs even the finest extra virgin olive oil lose some of its properties. Despite of this, imported Extra Virgin olive oil is still healthier than butter or corn oil.

  • sweetblackrose55

    Everyone in each country has something to gain buy putting the outsiders down with a bad reputation if you ask me.

  • Mark Beardsley

    Would keeping your EV Olive Oil in a refrigerator, keep it fresher longer?  Does anyone know?  If it is like other fruit juices, refrigeration tends to keep them fresh, longer, so would refrigerating Fresh Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil keep it fresh longer?