` Fact Check: 3 Common Myths About Olive Oil Quality - Olive Oil Times

Fact Check: 3 Common Myths About Olive Oil Quality

Feb. 16, 2016
Ylenia Granitto

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Olive oil is tightly woven in the cul­ture of Mediterranean pop­u­la­tions and, though in recent decades we have wit­nessed an excep­tional evo­lu­tion in pro­duc­tion meth­ods as often hap­pens to activ­i­ties inter­con­nected with ancient tra­di­tions, it is also sub­ject to a series of die hard clichés.

We often hear some­one ask­ing: That olive oil is so spicy. Will it not be too acidic?” Or, It has a won­der­ful color. Surely it is delicious.” 

Let’s dis­pel some con­fu­sion about three fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics of liq­uid gold to make the most of its ben­e­fits and encour­age care­ful and scrupu­lous pro­duc­ers. Here are some of the most com­mon myths:

1. Acidity can be per­ceived by tast­ing: False.

The acid­ity is due to free fatty acids present in olive oil and it is expressed in per­cent­age of oleic acid. This para­me­ter can be defined only by lab­o­ra­tory test­ing and it is odor­less and taste­less, so you can­not per­ceive it by tast­ing and you must never con­fuse it with the bit­ter taste and the pun­gent sen­sa­tions that are dis­tinc­tive attrib­utes of a good EVOO. In most cases, the more these fea­tures are pro­nounced, the lower the acidity.

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Pungency and bit­ter­ness are pro­duced by phe­no­lic com­pounds respon­si­ble for the extra­or­di­nary health qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil, such as oleo­can­thal — an anti-inflam­ma­tory and anti-tumor sub­stance named by researchers from Latin: oleo=olive, canth=sting, al=aldehyde for the sting­ing” fla­vor it gives to fresh EVOO.

2. The color is indica­tive of qual­ity: False.

EVOO can have dif­fer­ent shades of color rang­ing from golden yel­low to dark green that depend on the olive cul­ti­vars, the degree of mat­u­ra­tion of the olives and fac­tors relat­ing to the pro­duc­tion processes. Color is not an indi­ca­tion of quality.

That’s why sen­sory analy­sis of olive oil requires a spe­cial cobalt blue glass, to avoid the influ­ence of color on the all-impor­tant sen­sory assess­ment.

3. Unfiltered olive oil is more gen­uine and healthy than fil­tered olive oil: True and False.

The olive oil we obtain at the end of the extrac­tion process is a prod­uct rich in par­ti­cles of olives — pulp and stone. If not fil­tered, these tiny pieces ini­tially induce a slight increase of nutri­tional content.

As time goes by, how­ever, they will reduce, even dra­mat­i­cally, the shelf life of EVOO because they will sed­i­ment on the bot­tom and accel­er­ate the oxi­da­tion and the con­se­quent loss of health­ful ele­ments. Filtering is impor­tant to main­tain sta­bil­ity and pre­serve the healthy qualities.

It is impor­tant to clar­ify that the sen­sory analy­sis is the only reli­able way to assess qual­ity of EVOO. Only a few fea­tures are detectable by lab­o­ra­tory test­ing, but the con­di­tion of extra-vir­gin­ity can be per­ceived only accord­ing to our olfac­tory, retro-nasal and gus­ta­tory per­cep­tions. Panel opin­ion is in fact an essen­tial and fun­da­men­tal ele­ment for eval­u­a­tion in com­pe­ti­tions and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in general.

In short, no lab­o­ra­tory, nor any machine has so far been able to replace human senses in the analy­sis of EVOO.

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