‘Extra Virginity’ Author’s Latest Investigation Raises Questions

‘Extra Virginity’ Author’s Latest Investigation Raises Questions | Olive Oil Times
Tom Mueller (right) with International Olive Council Executive Director Jean-Louis Barjol.

Tom Mueller, whose investigations of the olive oil industry for The New Yorker and his 2011 book, “Extra Virginity, the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” helped give rise to a global discussion of olive oil quality, has stirred a new debate on his blog, this time over his critical look at an American olive oil retailer.

The subject of Mueller’s latest exposé is the Tubac Olive Oil Company, based in Arizona, which distributes olive oils through a network of stores named The Olive & The Grape, and other outlets. The company is owned by Sunil Patel.

Mueller, who lives in Italy, said he bought fourteen samples of olive oil from three of the chain’s stores in Arizona and sent them to a laboratory in Australia to undergo a battery of chemical and sensory tests.

The results indicated, as Mueller reported in a blog post, that ten of the fourteen olive oils collected were not extra virgin, and five were found by taste testers to be unfit for consumption.

In his book, and repeatedly in public appearances since its publication, Mueller has championed a California-based olive oil distributor, Veronica Foods, which is considered the leading supplier to the new ‘olive oil bar’ -themed boutiques springing up across the country, stocking over 300 such stores. On Mueller’s website, 306 of the 415 retailers on his list of “personal suggestions for places to get great oil in America” are Veronica Foods-supplied stores.

A debate has raged in recent days on his “Truth in Olive Oil” blog, in emails and social networks stirred by readers questioning why Mueller chose to target an obvious Veronica Foods competitor, why a freelance author would spend more than $5,000 to test olive oils a world away on a hunch, and why he did not test any samples from other stores, such as those supplied by Veronica Foods.

While much of the feedback in the way of comments on Mueller’s blog was supportive of his latest effort to uncover olive oil fraud, others were more skeptical.

“While I applaud your search for the best oils, I am concerned that you continue to be so pro-Veronica Foods,” one reader wrote. “Their tactics with the small business owner is getting them sued. I must wonder, since they fund your film project, if you might be going after her nemesis, the one (Veronica) told, ‘I have every intent of putting you out of business.’ Sunil used to work for her before going into business for himself. Are you trying to help her with this?”

Others wondered why Mueller, who has uncovered wrongdoing and greed at the highest levels of corporations and government, suddenly seemed to be playing small ball.

“I’d encourage Tom to keep working to expose fraud in the olive oil industry but to do it at the processing level where it really can do the most damage,” a reader suggested. “It is also important that Tom remains completely impartial in judging the olive oil industry. He really can’t be aligned with a supplier or he risks losing his credibility and the impact he can have on the olive oil industry.”

Others were less critical. “It is always a pleasure to read and review the results of your untiring work to expose those who would prefer to profit from misleading health conscious consumers of premium EVO brands and producers,” one commenter said. Some of the comments were left by retailers in the Veronica Foods network.

The running debate has some riveted. “I am following the debate / mudslinging / sycophancy with great fascination and horror,” an industry insider said Saturday.

Some viewed Mueller’s latest project as a possible misstep by a high-profile activist who has circled the world to speak out against the dark side of the olive oil industry, and who will be meeting this week with investigators for the United States International Trade Commission looking into olive oil quality and competitiveness.

An olive oil industry researcher put criticism of Mueller’s methods bluntly, saying “Bad design in the experiment. Too many variables, no control, and conflict of interest every which way you look,” in an opinion echoed by others over the weekend.

“I think, as an independent journalist, that I can praise good work when I see it, without incurring accusations of unseemly favoritism,” Mueller said Friday. “Or rather, I believe that calling attention to good work, and bad, is what good journalism is all about.”

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This article was last updated October 11, 2014 - 6:26 PM (GMT-5)

  • Bruce

    Misstep indeed, and an unscientific hatchet job.

  • SJM

    As someone who read (and enjoyed) Mr. Mueller’s book I have to admit I am a bit surprised by his choosing to target an obvious (perhaps the primary) competitor of his much-ballyhooed Veronica. And for someone who has been calling for greater transparency, he seems to have conveniently ignored the need for that here, as well as the need for sound scientific methods.

  • David

    I was considering opening an olive oil and vinegar boutique and looked into Veronica. They are thugs, pure and simple. They are obviously underwriting this kangaroo “study” while leveraging – and squandering – Mr. Mueller’s reputation.

    • OilAnon

      Lots of great sources out there… not Veronica or O&G… just do your homework

    • Jeff

      I can’t disagree with you more David, and your baseless assumption that Veronica Foods is
      “underwriting” Tom Mueller’s study clearly shows your personal bias. Over the past several years I have been a customer of Veronica Foods as the main supplier for my retail stores not because of any tactics or pressure on their part but because the quality and credibility of their product is so superior to any others I have found in this industry. I have personally tasted Veronica Foods olive oils and compared them to similar olive oils supplied by Tubac Olive Oil Company, and the difference in taste, aroma, and texture is so distinct that I could not sell them side-by-side even if I wanted to. What I get from Veronica Foods is the best tasting olive oils and vinegars I have personally ever consumed as well as a complete chemical analysis, sensory analysis, and certificate of authenticity for each product from a third-party accredited laboratory. Try asking for this from Tubac Olive Oil company and see what you get.

      • Paolo

        so Jeff..if an artisinal olive oil producer walked into your fusti store and presented you with an award winning evoo so superior that it was the featured and best selling oil in all stores that carried it, and as such was able to command a 30% premium over all other oils, and also presented you with the chemical and sensory analysis and certificate of authenticity, would you, in the spirit of providing only the best to your customers, buy a tin and fill up an empty fusto and offer it with pride to your customers..

  • OliveChirper

    What is this?? Tom Mueller does his job as an investigative reporter with a specialty in EVOO by finding and exposing a bad actor (whether by ignorance, negligence, or fraud) in the industry, just as he was praised for doing in his book and just as his many fans (myself included) have been clamoring for him to do since his book came out. Instead of screaming headlines denouncing the offender, this article is all about the bogus ‘controversy’ that Mr. Mueller favors a competitor of the offending distributor. Um, if Veronica Foods distributes good oils — as Mr. Mueller very clearly proclaimed in his book — and Tubac Olive Oil is distributing sub-par and adulterated oils, of COURSE he’s going to favor the former. What’s the issue? Does anyone believe that Mr. Mueller did not collect the samples he says he collected, conduct the interviews he said he conducted, submit the oils he collected for analysis, or accurately report the results? If not, what’s the ‘controversy’?

    • William Sargent

      What a simple response to a lot of good people (including his fans) who expressed on Mr. Mueller’s own blog and here who see quite a lot of controversy in the way this half-baked, non-scientific, one-sided slamming of a friend’s competitor. Read a little before you comment.

      • OliveChirper

        I read Mr. Mueller’s blog post, and all the posted comments, well before this Olive OIl Times piece came out. I see a lot of bad grammar, a lot of fuzzy-headed thinking, and a fair amount of likely sock-puppetry. None of that is surprising; what’s surprising is that Olive Oil Times is giving their nonsense credibility. I see no reason to be anything but grateful for Tom’s efforts here on behalf of the consumer and the legitimate olive farmers, mills, distributors, and retailers that are trying to distinguish themselves and stay in business while their tiny islands of quality are being inundated by a sea of rancid, fusty oil.

        • Willam Sargent

          In your world then, it takes very little — a few samples and some cash — to publicly trash a competitor. No transparency. No scientific standards or controls. OK. I understand now.

          • OliveChirper

            How has Mr. Mueller lacked transparency? He described in great detail what he did, why he did it, what the results were, and the defenses offered the principals.

        • http://www.facebook.com/gregor.christiaans Gregor Christiaans

          Sorry for the bad grammar. I am Dutch. By the way I sell olive oil in Holland and I met Tom Mueller in Italy at the ONAOO. the one has nothing to do with the other :-) anyway, interesting US discussion. To the consumer: taste, smell “feel” the olive oil you buy. Wether its “Bertolli”, or a price winning olive oil, if you like it, ‘stand-alone’ or in a dish, enjoy it. If it smells/taste stange, ask for a refund. I guess that has nothing to do with the name of the store where you buy it from. In Europe we also still have a lot to learn! (Like english grammar…sorry!) :-)

    • Bub

      Mr. Mueller did not collect the samples himself – this has recently come to light. He refuses to publish the actual test results – the certificates/lab notes. Why were they not also tested with the lab that the company in question uses?

      Mueller won’t test Veronica because he “can taste” the difference – subjective BS. Any Veronica store can poorly store and protect their oils, leave a fusti in the sun, or otherwise compromise the product – it would be more interesting for a side-by-side comparison, using a truly independent lab for both products.

      Anyone who has such a superior product should be able to out-compete on taste alone, not on tearing down with unsubstantiated rumors.

      Remember, like Abraham Lincoln once said “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet”

      • OliveChirper

        There have been several commenters claiming, as you do, that “Mr. Mueller did not collect the samples himself .” What is the basis for this assertion?

        • OilAnon

          I’m pretty sure the basis for this is that he is currently living in Italy and not the US… and has been for more than a few months.

  • Barb Williams

    The thing is, it’s the little guy (little producer, little shop) who has the most to fear from this kind of “exposé.” Big companies can target-test and publicise smaller players into extinction, unless there are legitimate peer-reviewed, scientific studies. For the same reason I did not believe the “Consumer Reports” taste tests of olive oils (you know the ones that find Bertolli the best) – I do not take this one seriously either and I hope this kind of thing stops for the smaller ones sake.

  • http://twitter.com/oliveoilguy Richard Gawel

    The Europeans have made an art-form of either ignoring or shooting the messenger. Look where it has got them. An industry riddled with shonkyness, and a multitude of good people within who are powerless to change a thing.

    With regard to the specifics of this article, they don’t justify a response, let alone a dignified one.

    My last comment in the olive oil times.

    Bye.

    • Jon

      Good. The over zealous Euro-bashing was getting old.

      • virginia brown

        Absolutely!

    • virginia brown

      Where is the European in this particular dog fight? Did I miss it? You mean because TM lives in Italy? He is Europe’s (over the) top critic. And if you looked a little closer into EU legislation (as in Julie Butler’s excellent article of today) you might learn something. Nationalism destroys brain cells. Be careful.

      • http://twitter.com/oliveoilguy Richard Gawel

        Sorry, but since you asked – and my comment didn’t provide a clear link. What I was trying to say, was that as a general principle, countries new to the olive oil game should carefully consider the long term ramifications of ignoring or glossing over potential quality issues if and when they arise. This website is littered with stories (mostly written by the talented Julie Butler) of big highly publicised busts in Italy and Spain (that’s the link), which are followed by extended costly investigations followed by excuses, blame dilution, and …drum roll…. inaction. Everyone loses in the end – both consumers and hard working caring producers of quality EVOO regardless of where they are from. Hopefully the thrust of the post is clearer now. And just for the record I am a massive fan of good EU EVOO. And what might surprise you, writing in support of my local industry doesn’t really benefit me. I don’t sell olive oil, just generic ‘tasting wheels’ – 99% are exported to the US and the EU anyway. I don’t profit from making anyone look bad. In fact I’ve made and wear t-shirts with the slogan “There’s more to life than defects”. I just like the consumer focus of the AUS industry, and how they firstly educate, and if they don’t change, take action against the producers that let the team down as much as they support those who don’t.
        And if there are no more questions……..
        (Sorry to those who I have pissed off, thanks for listening and I’m outa here :-)

        • Jon

          “Generic tasting wheels” that just happen to be distributed in the US by Veronica Foods. Now THERE is the link.

          • http://twitter.com/oliveoilguy Richard Gawel

            I’ve sold my olive wheel to thousands of people/businesses over the last 10 years. I’ve sold the to Veronica Foods AND their competitors, and to importers of EU olive oil into Australia AND their Australian competitors, I’ve sold wheels into Albequerque, Barrow Alaska and even one to f’in Zanzibar. Want to buy a wheel off me ‘Jon’? Got to my website and I’ll sell you one too, I’ll sell you a hundred if you like. Once you buy it you can on-sell it, smoke it, burn it and dance naked around it, or whatever you want to do with it. It’s up to you. Anything but copy it, as I hold the exclusive copyright to it. I have no legal/or implied arrangements with anyone. Period. God some people can stoop low.

        • virginia brown

          Thanks for yours.

  • Rosa g

    Mr. Cord you are right to bring light to these valid concerns about the validity of this report. I am quite shocked by some of the response from all who say they seek the “Truth” so long as it’s not about them!

  • VN Dalmia

    Compliments to OOT and Curtis Cord for a balanced approach: praising Mueller when required and presenting controversy too as it arises.

  • SSouthie

    I now understand why Veronica’s daughter posted the SAME bad review on the SAME day for three Olive Oil Stores across the country all citing Tom’s blog: http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=3XdF5zAz790fqA8os74xQQ

    • OilAnon

      She must have taken them down…

    • Amusedbystander

      I must be missing something here. Isn’t reposting what bloggers write “on the SAME day” just normal practice ever since RSS feeds became standard features on blog sites? Reposting within 2 minutes might be suspicious (but only just). You’re saying that they took the whole day? That’s just plain slack.

      • SSouthie

        Yelp reviews are expected to be based on real experiences, not an outlet to defame business competitors. The red flag for me was not just that she posted reviews of three olive oil store located across the country (FL, MI, NY) all on the same day – the RED flag was that she had
        the identical / word for word / experience (copy / paste) in each of the stores. And then she goes on to call out the name of her competitor as the suspected source of bad oil (shameful / unprofessional / simpleminded) linking to Tom’s blog – a blatant attempt to continue
        her assault.

        • OilAnon

          I couldn’t reach the reviews by the link provided… am I missing something?

          • SSouthie

            That is the silver lining– the post has been removed (reinforcing
            the theory that the Veronica Food Exec is willing to us unfair
            trade practices). However, I do share my
            investigative notes and will send you a copy of the screen print– email me at oliveoilandme@outlook.com as
            needed.

  • Mike

    I have a series of “olive oil bars” throughout the mountain west. Recently I called Veronica Foods about looking into their product as I expanded into another area. I ended up talking with Veronica herself. I mentioned that the playing field was open and I was comparing what she produced, and The Olive and Grape against what I currently was producing. Rather than tell me what was great about hers she launched into an immediate discussion about how dishonest Olive and Grape was. She went on to tell me that she paid for tests of O & G oil out of a lab in Australia costing her thousands of dollars. According to her, she claimed that the oils were flavored canola and vegetable oils rather than EVOO. Quite a claim! Whatever is true, this lady has an axe to grind and will claim just about anything if you let her talk enough. I am surprised there has not been a libel claim as yet.

    • Gretta

      Not shocked. I do hope that Olive and Grape does file suit. No one is above the law.

    • Paolo

      2 questions..why did she go to all the trouble to have O & G’s oil tested, and why did she send the samples to a lab in Australia..there are competent labs in this country,..

  • Bill

    Tom Mueller has destroyed his credibility in one online blog. When I read his book I was impressed by his expose’ on the olive oil industry. Now I see it was probably inuendo designed to support Veronica Foods. I recognize a hatchet job when I see one and Mueller’s blog amounts to nothing more than an attempt to damage a competitor who has made substancial enroads into the domestic olive oil business. A cheap shot orchestrated, bought and paid for by Veronica.

  • Stefano

    After reading all the comments carefully, there appears to be excessive vehemence directed at a company not implicated in Tom’s investigation, and little condemnation for the verified horse trader. This all too transparent lack of altruism thinly veils the ax which many are dying to grind. This deflection of blame also makes it apparent that many commenting currently sit astride a horse from this shifty trader. Only those who have just recently started paying attention or stand to be tarnished would argue the findings of the most sophisticated, independent olive oil testing lab in the world. There were similar Oscar-winning howls of outrage from those who were outed when The UC Davis Olive Center released its finding of the plethora of mis-branded and adulterated “extra virgin olive oils” on the supermarket shelf. The culprits cried that the “jury was rigged”. Then predictably, when their pseudo-indignation subsided, they plead ignorance. I couldn’t agree more with Olive Chirper, that the OOT article and much of the follow-up commentary belies a hidden agenda based solely on assumption as opposed to what’s actually been verified. It’s scapegoating at its finest, shoddy journalism, and a desperate attempt to change the subject. However, the subject cannot be changed in an industry plagued with such rampant fraud. This type of fraud is not some elusive unicorn as many would have the consumer believe. One must only throw a dart at any supermarket shelf to find product which is mis-branded yet being called extra virgin olive oil. So, my hat is off to Mr. Mueller for going after them all, big and small. It takes a real hero to ask the hard questions, find the truth, and put himself on the front line for the greater good of an industry in peril. Let no rock remain un-turned!

    • Simon

      I too have read every comment and on Tom Mueller’s Web site and I also know a good bit of the background. I believe your “hero” and his patron could well be in a good amount of hot water for their trickery.

      This olive times article above merely brought needed attention to the firestorm that was burning on Mueller’s own site, by his own readers well before this one was even published. What you will find is that libel is a serious matter and there are protections in place for a reason.

      • Stefano

        Sometimes doing the right thing requires taking the most difficult and painful path. Those with conviction who fight for what is right are not discouraged by the backlash of those who perpetrate the injustice. And, If by trickery you mean that Tom sent “factory” sealed samples labeled as extra virgin olive oil to the most sophisticated testing facility in the world, which utilizes the most advance methods to find such adulteration, then I would say that Tom is guilty as charged… as is the fraudster. I think it’s extremely important to re-examine the fact that the company in question recalled their own product. If that isn’t an admission of guilt, then I don’t know what is. The two LONE parameters which were examined by an independent lab in California, chosen and compensated directly by Tubac didn’t even pass basic IOC limits, which does not speak to all the other parameters which were left unmeasured… or at least undisclosed. Sophisticated fences do a much better job of covering-up. This is shoddy work!!! At least test for the few additional IOC parameters if you’re going to make a good show of it. Enough said, as I am not willing to draw a road map for those out there trying to brush up on their cheating. I mean 1.1% FFA…come on man! I could sooner put lipstick on a pig and enter it in to a beauty contest.

        • Gretta

          Stefano, you doth protest too much. You have way too much knowledge to not be involved. No one is above the law .. not you, not Veronica or Mike Bradley, not Tom Mueller. So disgusted in your arrogance.

          • Stefano

            Your disgust in my arrogance will make fine company for my disgust in your ignorance.

          • Stefano

            Gretta please, I must insist that you not denigrate yourself publicly. One mustn’t possess a doctorate to have such a woefully basic grasp of olive oil terminology or know the IOC’s legal chemical parameters for extra virgin olive oil. While my discourse above might have you believing that I am a genius, it is simply elementary, my dear Watson.

          • mike

            see TIOO for Tom Mueller’s answer to all your questions

          • Stefano

            Ha! “Way too much knowledge”, Gretta? The principals I laid out are basic, integral, and should be elementary to anyone who has a dealings in this industry. Your comment only serves to expose your woeful lack of fundamental knowledge. This ignorance is precisely what the horse traders bank on. If consumers took the time to educate themselves properly, the predators would have a much harder time of swindling them. As it stands, we have the blind leading the blinder. Trying to attach my comments to Veronica Foods, or any other entity does not change the facts I have outlined. If you struggle with the concepts above, as Gretta does, please inflate your flotation device and get yourself quickly to the shallow end where your toes can touch the bottom.

  • OilAnon

    I was once a VF customer… no longer! I have met Mr. Tom and he certainly is a likeable guy. That being said… people like Stefano may need help to understand all the dynamics going on here. If Mr. M collected 14 samples and sent them to a lab in Australia for testing at nearly $1000/sample, who paid for that? No doubt Mike Bradley. (if it even actually happened as claimed). I have had samples of O&G products and I didn’t like them, that’s why I don’t buy/sell them.

    I have personally heard Mike Bradley say he intended to destroy Sunni Patel and a number of stores that broke away from his heavy handed tactics, including mine. He has also said that he intends on turning quality olive oil into a commodity… a lofty and noble goal for sure and to put a cherry on top of that, he also has said he intends on holding the monopoly of said commodity. He might be a pretty big fish in the oil pond, but if quality product actually makes it to commodity status, I think Wal-Mart may disagree with Mr. Mike as to who is going to control all that.

    Mr. Mike and his lovely bride have shown a viciousness towards not only their competitors but their own customers that no other business in the world could possibly continually operate under successfully. THAT is why even though anyone who has tasted product from Mr. Patel (knowing that much of it is crap) can still have plenty to say about Mike and Veronica and go on to question Mr. Mueller’s motives. Mr. Mueller who has had a great career and is a great writer with an understanding and passion for EVOO that few others have, has unfortunately hitched his wagon to the Bradleys and Veronica Foods.

    I have learned how to source high quality product without Mr. Mike and I rest easier at night for it. Any of you that want out of the VF nightmare, it is doable. It takes a little work up front… even if you are happy right now… make a “Plan B” and be ready as more changes to this industry come.

    • concernedstoreowner

      Mr. Oil, is there a way to speak with you?

    • mike

      If you are so proud of your store and the products you sell why don’t you disclose your name? Your asking Tom M for full disclosure! or are you supplied by Tubac OO

      • OilAnon

        Because of the politics involved, my name is unimportant… and I am not asking Tom for full disclosure… nowhere in any of my posts did I call for that. And no… I am not supplied by Tubac or the Bradley’s. Each of my EVOOs are procured individually and none go on the shelf without the lab sheets available to me. Have a super successful day!

  • AB

    EVOO should be bought bottled from reputable producers and retailers.

    Storing oil in plastic vats and pouring them in steel containers like olive oil bars do, is not the proper way to handle the product. No info on bottles in olive oil bars, they can tell you what they want, you do not know what oil you are getting.

    Just food for thought….who is cleaning the vats? How often? What if a certain oil doesn’t sell, how long does it sit?

    So many quality oils in the market now (bad ones too) you should be able to find a bottle that makes you happy!

    And if an EVOO is $4 per liter don’t buy too cheap !!

  • Gorius

    This sounds like an ANTI- Competitive investigation by Tom Mueller and whoever is providing financial backing to his studies of the global olive oil industry. If Tom Mueller’s investigation is so extensive, then why only send the samples to ONE lab? Also, why choose an Australian lab? Australia, has implemented an unnecessarily strict definition of Extra Virgin olive oil as an economic barrier to foreign olive oil imports to protect their “Infant olive oil industry”. So it is no surprise that a very high sample failure was observed by the Australian lab.

    Why did Mueller not have the lab analyses performed in Italy (one of the oldest and largest producers of olive oil) where some of the BEST food oil laboratories of the world reside? What about California for lab analysis? Afterall, the samples were being sold in the U.S.A, and U.C. Davis has sophisticated capabilities to analyze olive oil.

    Furthermore, when suggesting where to find the “best oil of America,” why would Tom Mueller only mention ONE company for the entire nation. If Mueller is in pursuit of good journalism, a list of the best olive oil companies in particular regions would have been a more UNBIASED choice. After all, it would be inefficient to supply the Eastern United States from California when there are olive oil companies in the East Coast who can supply Eastern regions with the SAME quality oil more efficiently.

    This all seems a bit too peculiar. TOM MUELLER PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME BECAUSE, I AM NOT CONVINCED OF YOUR INTEGRITY AS A JOURNALIST.

    YOU SOUND LIKE A VERONICA FOODS ADVERTISEMENT.

    WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO VERONICA FOODS AND MIKE BRADLEY?????

    • OilAnon

      it goes a step further… the lab is controlled by Boundry Bend Estates… Australia’s largest single EVOO producer. Coincidentally, the Bradleys have exclusive rights to their 100% of their oil in the US bulk market… don’t believe it?… call and ask them to sell you 1000L. (I have). You are right… there are other labs, A conflict of interest at a minimum from at least 2 if not all parties.

  • Tom Mueller

    My recent article, Not All that Glitters is Gold , has attracted many comments, on my website and here. Many questions that people have asked were already addressed in my article itself, and elsewhere on my website. Other questions, and statements that appear in Curtis Cord’s article, are considered in a new post I’ve just added: .

    As an independent journalist, I draw my own conclusions based on evidence and experience, and speak for myself alone. I trust that readers will view comments and statements on websites, especially when made anonymously, with healthy skepticism, and will not be distracted from the central issue we all care about: olive oil quality.

  • Manz Man

    I would expect nothing less of the “Fox News”, of the olive oil industry. It seems as if, they too, completely whiffed at the true point and relevance of Tom’s
    article. This publication would rather discuss the back and forth bickering, than what Tom uncovered. In addition, they took it upon themselves to stoop to
    the level of suggesting that those in favor of the article, were stores supplied by Veronica Foods…

    Well, I guess the publication is assuming that anyone in
    favor of unveiling fraudsters and wanting to know the truth, is associated with Veronica Foods. It is interesting that they didn’t make the same conclusion,
    regarding the people who were bashing the article and desperately throwing out lies. The last ounce of credibility this publication once possessed, just
    left the room. Talk about unbiased, top notch reporting! The olive oil industry is indeed a “slippery business”.

    • Robert Stanhope (real)

      What are you talking about? OOT only brought attention to what was occurring on Mr. Mueller’s own blog! The reason OOT did not emphasize the “study” (and I am being generous with that term) is that Mr. Cord seems to have rightfully determined that it was not news! The only news here is the conduct of Mueller/Veronica that will very likely get them sued.

      Give me a break. A few samples found to be bad quality from selected stores in Arizona is not a big shock. What is interesting here are the tactics of a famously brutal businessman and his puppet who will pay with his once good name for being far more “slippery” than the subject of his probes.

    • OilAnon

      Show me 2 lies… or one for that matter

    • OilAnon

      Hey Nate… which lies were desperately thrown out?

  • Manz Man

    On a side note, if only this matter would be brought to court!!! I’m sure the fraudsters would love to have some national attention brought to their products. I’m sure they would love if the FDA caught wind of their practices, as well! You people are lost. Although, I must admit, if these findings were revealed about a company I was associated with, I might do my best to discredit the results and blog about it!

    • Brad

      Hmmm. This actually sounds like a threat. You wouldn’t happen to be trying to dissuade a lawsuit, would you. I’m quite sure that horse has left the barn.

  • petermcfarlane

    Regardless of any actual or perceived bias by Tom Mueller he has once again exposed a scammer.
    If producers / marketers just do the right thing by consumers they cannot be exposed – its that simple!

    • Alex

      No, sir. Because if it were established, just for example, that the samples were sent to the laboratory by Veronica, or the lab technicians (again, for example) knew that their owners would gain financially by failed scores, then the validity of the tests would rightfully be called into question (and a libel case is born).

      I happen to agree with Robert Stanhope. The nature of the cozy relationship between Veronica and Mueller made the actual “study” not *news* at all. Proof of that is that no news organization has picked up Mueller’s latest expose – and no one will.

  • Gretta

    Bravo, Jane. I feel the exact same way!

  • Olive Oil Supplier

    We have tried numerous times to post my comments onto Tom Mueller’s blog but for some reason, his spam blockers keep kicking it back to me. Therefore, I am thankful for the opportunity to post here. My comments are as follows:

    Tom, I know that you know who I am but you and I both know that we are not authorized to

    divulge my name in deference to Sunil’s right to confidentiality in naming the suppliers of his olive oils.

    As one of his suppliers, I feel it imperative that I submit a response to these two articles that you have written… I honor what you are trying to do in cleaning up the industry as I myself spent many years on the Quality Control Committee of the North American Olive Oil Association trying to achieve the same thing.

    I would more than welcome you to my facility to see our products and the procedures we have in place to ensure that the products we offer are quality and void of any economic fraud possibilities. We have a strict approved supplier program in place and we use an IOC (International Olive Oil Council) approved laboratory to test our products. We are interviewing certified taste panels to authenticate our Extra Virgin purchases but have found them very subjective and inconsistent even when grading the same samples of oil. Besides having certified Kosher and Organic audits, we also have a Third Party audit yearly and our most recent score was a “Gold” rating, the highest you can get.

    Regarding both of your “All That Glitters” articles, I would like to raise some questions and make some comments as follows:

    1. I think I know why Veronica Foods keeps coming up in your blog and why the writers are questioning your relationship with them. We have personally heard from numerous stores that Veronica Foods principals come into their stores, slam all of their olive oils and then offer to become their supplier. They tell them if they don’t start buying from Veronica Foods they will send you in along with local food critics to write negative articles about their stores and the products they carry. Additionally, owners of stores who are currently buying from Veronica Foods claim that they have been threatened with this as well if they ever stop buying from them. Whether this is true or not, I do not know but wonder why so many people would tell the same story.

    2. I understand that you may try to be impartial and not be influenced by one of the contributors to your projects. However, as much as a politician may say he won’t be influenced by a contributor there is a reason that there are still lobbyists in Washington. Is it possible that this friendship and the reports you had been given might have contributed to the fact that you “sensed something wrong” with Sunil’s oils and found those at Veronica Foods stores to be “uniformly excellent”. I am not saying that they aren’t excellent but pre-conception is a strong participant in our experience.

    It seems to a lot of people in the industry that you are biased in who gets onto your list of approved stores. On your “Great Olive Oils” list for Northern America, we counted 453 names of businesses that are concentrated primarily on olive oil. Of those, only 4.6% are not members of the California Olive Oil Council, California producers or Veronica Foods supplied. Many people may not know that the California Olive Oil Council, in conjunction with the University of Davis and the Australian Olive Oil Council, has contributed to the design of a Marketing Order that has been presented to Congress. If passed, this order could essentially put them in charge of olive oil for the United States although this group only does less than 2.5% of the sales of olive oil in the United States. Michael Bradley is often a guest speaker at the classes held by this group and I am wondering if you are a spokesperson for them as well.

    A person trained in sensory tasting such as you should know that the palette is shot after tasting 2 or 3 oils. In fact, an official taste panel is only allowed to taste between 3-5 oils per day. So, I am wondering how you could taste in a fair manner 14 oils to find such a “range of sensory defects in one place”.

    Although Modern Olives may be a fine and qualified laboratory, I question whether they are one of the most “experienced and expert olive oil laboratories in the world” since they have only been open since 2006 and they don’t even have a sensory panel that is on the list of those certified by the IOC. Since the sensory testing is the main one used to discredit these oils, I have to wonder if they are the best place to have this kind of testing done. Especially since they are doing work primarily for the supporters of the Marketing Order before Congress and Veronica Foods.

    In your rush to indict Suneil and his products, did you ever question what happens to the oils after sitting in a fusti for a period of time? Many stores, including those supplied by those on your approved list, offer the oil in a fusti. Have you tested oil from their stores that has been sitting in a fusti for any amount of time? Are the lids tight? Is there the possibility of oxidation from other sources such as Arizona weather in the summer? Is the packaged product sealed correctly or over-filled allowing for the entrance of air into the vessel? In fact, that brings up another question about your sample pulling. You said that you visited Arizona in the summertime. How long did the samples sit in your vehicle before you sent them to the lab?

    As there were repeat oils in your sampling there were really only 8 oils in the study. My comments on these are:

    a. Two samples of Moroccan oil were tested and one “had all the necessary chemical and sensory characteristics of extra virgin olive oil” and the other sample failed the testing in 4 different ways including showing the presence of canola oil and lampante or pomace oil. I find this very interesting since it was the same oil in both samples!

    b. According to your test, the Koroneikii failed both K232 and K270 tests. However, we had this same oil tested at an IOC approved laboratory and the K232 was 2.0 and the K270 was 0.151 which are both within acceptable limits. Further, your test showed the FFA as 1.1 and our test showed it as 0.7 also within acceptable limits.

    c. The two oils mentioned above are the only two of your 14 samples that you had testing done under approved standards. The rest of the oils failed due to PPP’s,

    DAG’s or sensory.

    i. PPP’s and DAG’s are both testing methodologies that have not been accepted by the IOC membership. According to the North American Olive Oil Association “they’ve been considered and rejected by the IOC because of failure to produce consistent, reliable results”. I do know that the group who penned the Marketing Order is trying to get these tests inserted into the standards here in the United States although they are not standards anywhere else in the world, even Australia where, after having a long and protracted fight only got them passed as voluntary standards. However, until such time as this actually happens, it is totally unfair to claim that somebody’s product is bad because you choose to use these tests prematurely. If and when these tests are accepted as standard, then and only they should they be used as an absolute.

    ii.Sensory panels have also been down-played by the IOC due to the subjective nature of the testing. We actually did a study when we sourcing an approved lab by sending the exact same lot of oil to 4 different IOC accredited taste panels and received 4 different results; two panels passed the oil and two panels failed the same oil. Even in your testing, the same oil was tested 3 times with 3 different results. Further, if the taste panel knows your agenda, might it affect the outcome? Were
    the samples sent blind? Was country of origin or type of oil noted on the samples? We do know that the laboratory you are using is tied in with the California Olive Oil Council and the U.C. Davis group who are very anti imported oils. In an official sampling, the test samples are drawn by a non-involved, third party and submitted blind ensuring that there is no such bias possible.

    iii. I thought it quite interesting that you used inflammatory statements such as “not fit for human consumption without further processing” or “lampante” without explaining to the unknowing consumer that this relates to your tasting results and not analytical testing. As mentioned above, the sensory testing is questionable in my mind since your lab isn’t certified and sensory testing is so subjective. Tom, I would like to reiterate my invitation to visit our facility and to meet with me. I think that it would be very informative for us both and would certainly show you to be unbiased in your agenda. I think that the reputation you have built in the industry has brought with it some responsibility for you to ensure that the statements you make are based upon full knowledge of all involved.

    I am not here to destroy anybody’s credibility and I would rather live in harmony with my competitors. Healthy competition is good as long as everyone is playing fairly. I have invested much time and money in my company to make sure that we are in compliance with all existing laws and standards and I am committed to do whatever it takes to ensure that I am offering the best products that I can. . I look forward to your feedback and your assistance in pointing out any short-comings in my procedures. If there is a weakness in my system of buying or the products that I am carrying, I am more than willing to consider your input. Further, I am fully onboard with your wanting to eliminate the truly fraudulent products on the market. Ultimately, with our combined efforts, we can achieve this.

    • Stefano

      Oh, thank heavens you decided to show up for the party! Better late than never, I always say. So what finally compelled you to quasi-step forward anonymously out of the shadows? For a second I thought you were simply going to allow your customer and his demagogues to speak on your behalf. Clearly, like a well trained parrot, Veronica Foods rolls effortlessly off of your tongue. And here I was thinking that the tail was wagging the dog, but apparently, you are in lock step with the scapegoating and conspiracy theory. Now, the real question is, who exactly are you, and more importantly, why did you not step in front of Sunil Patel, like any reputable supplier and shield him from this public maelstrom? Your 11th hour anonymous commentary, rumor mongering, claims of epic due diligence, interspersed with a nice sprinkle of self-righteousness is the Red Dye No. 5 cherry on top of this mountain of obfuscation. If you truly stand by your product, and have pride in what you sell, you will have no problem what so ever exposing who you are. If not, then your silence will speak a thousand words on your behalf.

    • mike

      It would be wise of you to post this on Tom’s blog not this site

    • Slip-N-Slide

      I have deduced who this supplier is. (it wasn’t hard) All it took was a simple Google search connecting the product descriptions this company uses to market their products and matching them verbatim with the product descriptions employed by their proteges, including Patel. Simple as pie, easy as cake. Then, to my utter shock (this took a bit more sleuthing) the tangled web expanded to include even larger than could be imagined, and I do mean (MASSIVE) company standing behind this company which is standing behind Patel. There is no reality TV show better than this. I’m about ready to pop some corn and settle in to the comfy chair, lol!

  • Linda

    Perhaps Tom M. could answer my question. Why have you not produced the OFFICIAL test results of your samples? You kindly provided who performed the tests, so instead of your translation, why is it difficult to produce the actual test results?

  • ssouthie

    Mr. Mueller – the olive oil industry clearly needs a champion with integrity to continue the honorable fight gainst fraud, corruption and manipulation. I had thought that was you, however, these recent events make me wonder……
    So – I agree, as others have mentioned, it is
    time for a do over. (we all get one)
    Without being asked, the following are my suggestions.

    1) Sever all financial relationships and circumstances that create the perception that your professional judgment or actions regarding the olive oil industry could
    be unduly influenced.

    2) Own up to your mistakes and make them right. The questionable collection and chain of custody procedures, your choice of testing laboratories, targeting a single chain of stores……

    3) Do it again and be prepared to show scientific evidence based on the results of statistical analysis and scientific controls. Transparency is needed.
    And at the end of this, if you find oils not meeting the EVOO standard, by all means possible, please attempt to uncover the “WHY” and not assume its fraud at the hands of one of the middlemen in the supply chain.

    As someone in pursuit of the highest standards for EVOO, please include a recommendation as to what a
    boutique oil shop can do to ensure against bad oils.
    Putting all my eggs into a single provider is more risk than I can absorb, so what can I do to source only the best?

    This may cost you, but it’s a small price to pay for what is now challenging your reputation, credibility and effectiveness in fighting corruption in the oil industry.
    If you’re unwilling to fix this, the fight will continue without you.

  • billingsworth

    All you people who are so angry at Mr Mueller would appear to have your own agendas; if not, why not be at least intrigued to hear that a major boutique appears to be conducting business fraudulently? Sure, demand transparency, paperwork, reserve judgement, etc, but these ad hominem, Veronica-bashing and Mueller-smearing responses tell another tale entirely about those who put them here. Bottom line: if you are interested in promoting quality and consumer awareness, you would welcome any activity that appears to be progressing that at least until it is shown that the whistle-blower is the true fraud. To assume Mr Mueller would squander his hard-earned reputation so idiotically as to commit easily-proved libel is to insult his intelligence and, I think, reveal your own want for same.

    • Roger

      Because in this case a company that is widely known to use bullying tactics has used a friendship with an “independent reporter” to smear a competitor. That is not the way to uncover fraud – that is a way to commit it.

      • mike

        Roger- If you followed Mr. Mueller over the last several years (instead of since this post because it affects your store) you would have seen what his agenda really is-to expose companies by name selling “FAKE” olive oil to the consumer-you probally applaud Mr. Mueller when he names other companies in the EU and supermarket brands that are fake-but now it is close to home and you don’t like the results-I have tasted Olive Oils at the Tubac store-at their Bisbee Olive Oil store in Bisbee AZ,and most recently at the AZ Olive/Tubac olive oil store in Tucson and their oils are disguisting-the have a musty order and rancid chemical taste-maybe you should taste their oils (or yours) before you make judgment

  • Roger

    And not a word from Modern Olives lab, because I suspect they know that the samples were all sent directly from the Veronica office in Berkeley, and this whole thing stinks to high heaven.

    • OilAnon

      What say you Stefano…. I mean Mike?

      • Stefano

        I’m flattered that you would mistake me for one of the the world’s leading authorities on extra virgin olive oil. However, Mr. Anonymous Oil, I am not Mike, Veronica, Modern Olives, Boundary Bend or Tom. I am also not a dentist, garbage collector, investor, teacher, barber, or politician. Unlike others posting here, I did not roll out of bed at a Holiday Inn a few days, months, or even a couple years ago with the novel idea that I could wiggle my nose and become an olive oil expert. When one opens a dedicated storefront (or their mouth) they should be prepared to have at least a smidgen of knowledge about the product category in question. This is not to say that one must own a lab, have an olive tree in the backyard, or crush olives to know a thing or two. By the way, I moonlight as a surgeon, so if anyone out there needs organ removal or implantation be sure to contact me (on the low down). *wink-wink*

  • Al

    I had never heard of Veronica Foods but their website doesn´t exactly give a good impression if they manage to incorrectly spell two of the Spanish varieties !

  • Luke

    It certainly seems that the only person who benefits from this “well-balanced” review of Mueller’s expose is in fact Curtis Cord. Right, Curtis?

  • Steve Fisher

    Anyone know if Veronica Foods is still in business? I have been trying to contact them about opening a store but no response. I am a little hesitant to go with them because I have heard they are thugs and treat their customers like crap and they are up to their eyes in lawsuits. Any info on working with them if they are still in business is appreciated. Has anyone had success with their retail store? If anyone can recommend other suppliers would also be appreciated.

    Thanks