The olive oil business might seem at times tumultuous and ever-changing — and it is, with energetic up-and-coming producers, industry infighting over market share and the uproar over less-than-standard products.
But olive oil has been around a very long time, of course, and many of the things we see happening these days in the category turn out to be not so new at all.
Looking back through the archives of the New York Times, the Associated Press and other sources, what might seem like current trends are just the latest continuations of stories that began long ago.
We just thought we’d share some of the more interesting snippets we came across flipping through the last 100 years, or so, of olive oil’s ancient history.
(Some sources require logins to view the original article.)
“The convention of olive oil producers, recently assembled (in San Francisco) took a decided stand for pure, home-made olive oil. The convention has now established the very conditions of success — concerted action securing a perfect guarantee of the purity of olive oil produced in San Francisco.”
“A proposal to reduce the tariff on olive oil threatens the annihilation of the olive oil industry in California. ‘Don’t permit this infant industry to be strangled as it has never had adequate protection.’ The Olive Growers’ Association of Los Angeles said. ‘If the tariff is reduced, it will compel us to discontinue raising olives.’ ”
“Very little olive oil is now being imported and the domestic olive oil is not sufficient to supply the demand. The abnormally high price of genuine olive oil has tempted unscrupulous dealers to mix cheaper vegetable oils with a little genuine olive oil and to sell the mixture labeled as olive oil.”
40 Percent of California Olive Oils are Substandard
In 1930, the Maryland-based olive oil importer Pompeian Corporation carried out its own study that revealed, “So-called California virgin olive oils” were not from the first pressing. “Over 40 percent of the so-called pure, un-adulterated virgin olive oils are falsely labeled — containing from 25 to 100 percent refined oil,” the company said. (Guess you could call the 2011 Davis report, 81 years later, delayed payback.)
“Manuel Pinol, a member of the Seville municipal council, motored today from that city to Madrid using olive oil as the only lubricant of his car. The experimenter said he consumed one liter of the oil with excellent results. Olive producers have asked the government to support experiments which they hope will result in extensive use of olive oil for lubrication as a measure toward solving the problem of olive over-production.”
“Organization of an international committee of olive oil chemists, which will seek to develop standard methods for the analysis of olive oil was announced here yesterday by W.H. Dickhart, chairman. Included are chemists connected with the olive oil industry in Spain, France and Italy. The committee will try to develop new methods for determining the purity of olive oil.”
“California has been producing olive oil for twenty years but never better quality or more quantity than this year. The increased demand has brought a rise in prices for domestic oils too and many growers who formerly packed their choicest Mission and Manzanilla olives are now using them to manufacture oil. This year, 900,000 gallons of olive oil were pressed out in California.”
“German engines of war are lubricated with olive oil, indicating that the Nazis are running low on vital raw materials, Eugene Varga, the Soviet’s foremost economist, said in today’s edition of the Communist party newspaper Pravda.”
“Olive Oil from peanuts has been produced successfully at the Southern regional research laboratory of the USDA. Both are wartime substitutes, but will probably carry over into peace for uses where they are either superior or cheaper.”
“Joseph Profaci, a Brooklyn olive oil distributor, was fined $4,000 yesterday in federal Court, Brooklyn, for misbranding his product. Two companies that Profaci formerly headed, the Mamma Mia Importing Company, Inc., and the Santuzzo Oil Company, Inc., also were fined a total of $4,000.”
After a series of studies, researchers were able to confirm the content of a bottle found at an archaeological site near Mount Vesuvius was indeed olive oil. The discovery sheds light on the oil's molecular evolution over time.
Using 3D modeling technology, archaeologists and researchers have created a virtual replica of the ancient Roman villa and its oil press. Digital tourists can now explore the site and witness millennia-old olive oil production from home.