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Is that right? What is 'extra-virgin' olive oil?

That expensive bottle of olive oil labeled "extra-virgin" must be really good stuff, worth every penny, right?


Maybe, maybe not. There's no way of knowing what that term, or others on olive-oil containers, really mean.

All that will change in October when new standards for grading and labeling olive oil go into effect. The guidelines were adopted in April by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The United States is not a member of the International Olive Council, which has had standards in place for years to protect consumers -- and the IOC's member companies -- from products that are of poor quality, labeled misleadingly or contain stuff that isn't olive oil at all. (Sometimes it turns out to be sunflower-seed oil or another impostor.)

Substandard olive oils can compete cheaply on the market, threatening sales of the good stuff. The olive-oil trade group in California, where most U.S. olive oil originates, had urged the USDA to establish clear, science-based definitions for the different terms used to categorize olive oils.

Come October, purveyors who wish to label their olive oil "extra-virgin," for instance, must be able to demonstrate that their product:

is virgin olive oil which has excellent flavor and odor (median of defects equal to zero and median of fruitiness greater than zero) and a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and meets the additional requirements as outlined in ยง52.1539, as appropriate.
The document does not address the confusing terms "light," "extra light," or "cold-pressed." I've got a call in to the USDA to find out what that means about future use of those terms.

We all love our olive oil these days and, as I wrote in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, olive oil is the fat of choice for those who embrace the super-healthful Mediterranean diet. But whether you choose virgin or extra-virgin or whatever, be aware that the oil of the olive is mighty caloric: A single tablespoon has about 120 calories.

From the Archives: Nutrition buzzwords make hay out of grains of truth

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By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 11, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?  
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Comments

And it's not just olive oil you need to be careful about.

I bought some commercial olive oil vinaigrette" salad dressing last month, figuring that olive oil was the main oil in it.

Wrong.

It was canola or some other oil. Olive oil was listed further down.

-Steve
-http://advancedmediterraneandiet.com/blog/

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | June 11, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, the standards are so minimal they offer little help to the consumer. You might want to read Australian olive oil consultant Richard Gawel's comments about the new standards.
feed://www.aromadictionary.com/EVOO_blog/?feed=rss2
Also, it might be of interest to you that Marina Colonna and Natalia Ravida, two of the most outstanding women olive oil producers in the world, will be at a Washington Women and Wine and Crush+Press event at Potenza restaurant (15th & H) on Thurs. June 24, 7-9. www.facebook.com/crushandpress

Posted by: CrushandPress | June 11, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

For me it is all about the taste. Extra virgin olive oil generally has more taste than later pressings. However, it is a mistake to use it for cooking. Where mislabeling is concerned, "Italian" olive oil is mostly from Spain. It can be labeled as Italian as long as it is bottled in Italy and millions of litres of olive oil is shipped from Spain to Italy each year. For myself I buy Spanish olive oil.

Posted by: ianstuart | June 11, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Just what does "is virgin olive oil which has excellent flavor and odor" say. Sound like "I know pornography when I see it."

Posted by: fatherbill00 | June 11, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

One would think that they could set a much clearer standard that the olive oil must be from top quality olives that are cold-pressed for the first time.

At least, though, there are some standards coming into place. I've bought some extra virgin olive oil before that, once the bottle was opened, was definitely not extra virgin. I'm not entirely certain that it was even olive oil. None of the characteristic smell or flavor was there.

Just curious...do these standards extend to salad dressings? It's a common trick in salad dressings marked as being made with olive oil to add a dash of olive oil to some other cheaper oil with fewer calories. I imagine that other products do the same thing. Finding things made with 100% olive oil is quite hard, but at least one can look at the label on the back in these cases to see through the deception on the front.

Posted by: blert | June 11, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I loves me some extra virgin. It's a whole 'nother level of Virgin. Just when you thought you scratched the surface of Virginity.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | June 11, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Article: "But whether you choose virgin or extra-virgin or whatever, be aware that the oil of the olive is mighty caloric: A single tablespoon has about 120 calories."

@blert 2:10 PM -- "It's a common trick in salad dressings marked as being made with olive oil to add a dash of olive oil to some other cheaper oil with fewer calories."

I think you'll find that all oils, whether olive, canola, safflower, corn, etc. have the same caloric content as any pure fat: 9 cal/g. The only way to have a "reduced calorie" fat is to dilute it with water or other filler. That's how 'lite' margarine is created, for example.

Besides flavor, the primary distinction of dietary importance among the various fats and oils is the degree of saturation: saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated. However, they all have the same caloric content.

Whether or not these new definitions have any impact on the olive oil industry remains to be seen, but I do hope that we consumers will insist upon truth and accuracy in the labeling of olive oils, and use the power of the purse to
reward those products which meet the spirit as well as the letter of the new standards.

Posted by: Xenophides | June 11, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

This shocked me! I am a firm believer in all things Olive Oil. I use it in almost all of my meals, I have it in my soy butter, I even have Olive oil in my body lotion! To read that it may not actually be olive oil, but could be some other oil is discouraging. Wish they would start the labeling process sooner... I wonder if Organic Olive Oil is actual "good" olive oil?
Great Article- thanks!

Mallori: www.GeriCareFinder.com

Posted by: GeriCareFinder | June 11, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

In a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you get a second cherry.

;-)>

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 12, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

@Matt, Major brands always give out their popular brand samples (in a way it is similar to coupons) I alway use qualityhealth to get mine http://bit.ly/bhhLUy enjoy your free samples

Posted by: aristameriel12 | June 12, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that the US and California has adopted the bankrupt "standards" ( in the case of the IOOC and the NAOOA the term is a true oxymoron) responsible for the epidemic of second rate, defective, and downright fraudulent, liquid fat, masquerading as olive oil. The grading system is so hopelessly flawed that it actually rewards the producers of off grade olive oil at the expense of those foolish enough to produce the genuine article. Anyone who has actually taken the time to unravel the intentionally misleading terms and definitions knows that these so called standards are a cover for business as usual. What is baffeling is why the COOC endorsed these "standards" created by an industry whose members sell more refined olive oil than the real thing and who do their best to confuse and mislead the consuming public by naming the second rate fat "lite olive oil" or "100% Pure Olive Oil" without ever mentioning that the overwhelming majority (over 90%) of the fat in both of these products is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, nutritionless, chemically refined fat that has far more in common with refined seed oil than with extra virgin olive oil.

Posted by: stoneground | June 12, 2010 1:53 AM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that the US and California has adopted the bankrupt "standards" ( in the case of the IOOC and the NAOOA the term is a true oxymoron) responsible for the epidemic of second rate, defective, and downright fraudulent, liquid fat, masquerading as olive oil. The grading system is so hopelessly flawed that it actually rewards the producers of off grade olive oil at the expense of those foolish enough to produce the genuine article. Anyone who has actually taken the time to unravel the intentionally misleading terms and definitions knows that these so called standards are a cover for business as usual. What is baffeling is why the COOC endorsed these "standards" created by an industry whose members sell more refined olive oil than the real thing and who do their best to confuse and mislead the consuming public by naming the second rate fat "lite olive oil" or "100% Pure Olive Oil" without ever mentioning that the overwhelming majority (over 90%) of the fat in both of these products is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, nutritionless, chemically refined fat that has far more in common with refined seed oil than with extra virgin olive oil.

Posted by: stoneground | June 12, 2010 1:54 AM | Report abuse

How can anything be "extra" virgin. Virginity is an absolute. Either something is virgin or it is not. Something cannot be more virgin or less virgin.

Posted by: Cosmo4 | June 12, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

@fatherbill00 - Drop by a wine shop (they usually carry gourmet foods) or a good specialty store. Buy some. Have it straight, a little drizzed on bread, a little on salad greens. Learn the taste and then you can find out the fakes. Until you know what gold is, it's hard to differentiate the tin.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 12, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Olive oil is wildly caloric as are olives themselves. I personally prefer gourmet ice creams when I want outrageously high fat content in my food. You can find a wide variety of them at Whole Foods, but don't go hoping to wash them down with diet soda. Whole Foods is morally opposed to carbonated beverages.

Posted by: blasmaic | June 13, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Extra virgin oil is oil that nobody's screwed around with.

Posted by: Apostrophe | June 13, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Extra virgin oil is oil that nobody's screwed around with.

Posted by: Apostrophe |

Bravo! A first class retort that brought on my first grin of the day!

Posted by: elizabeth6 | June 13, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

The Mexicans have the right idea; they are growing millions of avocado trees. Avocado oil is far superior to olive oil for both cooking and skin care. It has a more neutral buttery taste and is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals. It is a natural sunscreen and is the world's best skincare product.

It is about time the international community is enforcing standards on what constitutes - extra virgin.

Posted by: alance | June 13, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Don't not why everyone's hating on olive oil Somehow, I don't think I'd have much success using ice cream to saute garlic. Given that avocado oil runs about $40/quart, I doubt that it will be an every night cooking oil. I like some of the specialty oils, but it's olive and canola that get regular use in the Blade's cocina.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 13, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

This past spring I visited an olive grove in Northern California where they produce California Olive Ranch EVOO. We were given a detailed briefing by the managers on their growing techniques and processing procedures and on what sets "real" EVOO apart from what is generally labled as EVOO. We were then were given a sample bottle to take home -- what an unbelievably beautiful taste! Now that's all we buy. It's a bit hard to find on the East Coast (sometimes Whole Foods) but well worth the effort.

Posted by: julztraveler | June 14, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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